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Trafficked women forced into marriages

By JULIEN NEAVES Sunday, January 19 2014

A RECENT study on migrant smuggling and human trafficking to Trinidad and Tobago reports that women are being trafficked for sex establishments in Central and South Trinidad, and they are being forced into marriages of convenience and businessmen, religious leaders, lawyers and law enforcement agents are linked to the illegal trade.

The report, “Invisible Immigrants: A profile of irregular migration, smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons in Trinidad and Tobago” was commissioned by the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Observatory on Migration.

In the report, one stakeholder identifies a lawyer who, with religious leaders, facilitates marriages of convenience to regularise the status of the trafficked women lured to TT with the promise of employment.

Noting that the majority of victims are sexually exploited and psychologically abused, the report says: “This is noteworthy, as several stakeholders referred to establishments in Central and South Trinidad, which bring in girls, particularly for the commercial sex trade, and request that they hand over their passports.”

Brothels and nightclubs are identified as places where trafficked persons can be found.

The report quotes unconfirmed findings of the National Security Ministry which states that victims of trafficking between June 2009 and August 2012 were 39 percent Venezuelan, 31 percent Colombian, 22 percent from Dominican Republic and eight percent from Guyana.

For overstayers by nationality the overwhelming majority were Guyanese at 61 percent, followed by Jamaica with 10 percent. For undocumented workers, by nationality, Guyana and China tied for the highest at 35 percent, then Indonesia with 15 percent.

In the area of smuggled migrants, the study quotes the Police Service Crime and Problem Analysis Branch (CAPA) statistics from 2007 to April 2012 which found that Colombians constituted the highest trafficked category at 57 percent, followed by 17 percent Venezuelans, eight percent Guyanese and Ghanaians, and five percent Nigerians and other.

One major form of smuggling is described as a “loosely organised venture” with people, particularly fishermen, transporting migrants from the Venezuelan mainland to TT at costs ranging from US$120 to US$200.

“Individuals entering through these means are dropped off at the ‘safest’ point and left to ‘fend for themselves’ in terms of accessing transportation, jobs and accommodation, etc,” the report states.

The other form of smuggling is recorded as an “intricately organised scheme” with key contact persons at every point on the journey to facilitate the undetected entry and settlement of the migrant.

One detainee cited in the report referred to an extensive network known as the “brotherhood” which “puts everything in place” for African nationals seeking foreign opportunities and also offer a support base when the migrant arrives.

The study reports that in some instances, upon reaching Trinidad, smuggled migrants were forced to swim ashore. The fees of the smugglers are “consistently high” and one irregular migrant in detention reported paying US$12,000.

“Therefore, in an effort to finance this venture many migrants resort to selling off their assets and securing loans from family, friends and smugglers. Consequently, botched migration efforts usually left these individuals impoverished and bankrupt,” the study states.

The study is one of three commissioned by the ACP. The other two are “Human Mobility in the Caribbean: Circulation of Skills and Immigration from the South” and a final study “Becoming an Immigrant Magnet: Migrants’ Profiles and the Impact of Migration on Human Development in Trinidad and Tobago.”

The trafficking and South immigration studies are complete, having received final ACP approval while the third report is awaiting final approval.

Publications of the first two studies were on Friday handed over to Maurice Suite, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security by Jewel Ali, representating the International Organisation for Migration at the meeting of the National Consultative Committee on Migration and Development (NCC) held at the ministry’s Port-of-Spain offices.

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