Women trafficked for prostitution and forced marriage in Trinidad

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Friday January 24, 2014 – A recent report on human trafficking and migrant smuggling to Trinidad and Tobago indicates that women are being trafficked for sexual exploitation, with some being forced into marriage, and prominent members of the community are linked to the illegal trade.

In the report, one stakeholder identifies a lawyer who, along with religious leaders, arranges marriages to regularise the status of the trafficked women who were lured to the twin-island republic by the promise of employment. 

Stating that most of the 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.”

The study, which was commissioned by the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Observatory on Migration and titled “Invisible Immigrants: A profile of irregular migration, smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons in Trinidad and Tobago,” identified brothels and nightclubs as places where trafficked persons could be found. 

The study quoted unconfirmed findings of the National Security Ministry which stated that victims of trafficking between June 2009 and August 2012 were 39 percent Venezuelan, 31 percent Colombian, 22 percent from the Dominican Republic and eight percent from Guyana, according to a Newsday report. 

With respect to smuggled migrants, the study quoted 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 others. 

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

“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. (T&T Newsday)  Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)