U.S. Says T&T Police and Immigration Officers Involved in Sex Trafficking

2015 Trafficking in Persons Report

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: TIER 2 WATCH LIST

United States State Department
Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
July 27, 2015 – state.gov

United States State DepartmentTrinidad and Tobago is a destination, transit, and possible source country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Women and girls from the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Venezuela, and Colombia are subjected to sex trafficking in brothels and clubs, with young women from Venezuela especially vulnerable.

Economic migrants from the Caribbean region, especially Guyana, and from Asia are vulnerable to forced labor. Victims have been subjected to forced labor in domestic service and the retail sector. Immigration officials note an increase in international criminal organizations’ involvement in trafficking, and NGOs report young boys are coerced to sell drugs and guns. In a break with common practice, some traffickers have recently allowed victims to keep their passports, removing a common indicator of human trafficking in an attempt to avoid detection. Many other traffickers continue to confiscate victims’ passports and travel documents. Economic migrants who lack legal status may be exposed to various forms of exploitation and abuse indicative of trafficking. Trinidad and Tobago experiences a steady flow of vessels transiting its territorial waters, some of which may be engaged in illicit and illegal activities, including forced labor in the fishing industry. Complicity by police and immigration officials in trafficking crimes impeded anti-trafficking efforts. Law enforcement and civil society reported some police and immigration officers facilitated trafficking in the country, with some law enforcement officials directly exploiting victims. Anti-trafficking stakeholders reported some police officers had ties to sex trade establishments, which is likely to inhibit law enforcement’s willingness to investigate allegations of trafficking in the sex trade.

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The anti-trafficking unit sustained efforts to identify trafficking victims and refer them to care. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Trinidad and Tobago is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. The government investigated trafficking offenses—including potentially complicit law enforcement and immigration officials—but initiated only one prosecution against a suspected trafficker under its 2011 anti-trafficking law, a significant decrease compared with the 12 prosecutions during the previous reporting period. Immigration and police officers have been implicated in facilitating sex trafficking. The government has yet to convict any individuals under its anti-trafficking law and did not develop a national plan of action as mandated under the law.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO:

Prosecute cases investigated under the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Act and convict and sentence traffickers, including complicit immigration and law enforcement officials; continue to devote adequate resources to the anti-trafficking unit to carry out its mandate in the investigation of trafficking crimes and the identification and protection of victims and ensure those resources are effectively allocated; develop a national action plan to address law enforcement efforts, victim care, and interagency coordination related to trafficking crimes; formalize and widely disseminate procedures to guide all front-line officials in the identification and referral of potential victims, especially among foreign women in prostitution, migrant workers, and children; increase and provide adequate funding to NGOs to care for victims; continue training and outreach to educate officials about the manifestations of trafficking in the country; and implement a national public awareness campaign that addresses all forms of trafficking, including the prostitution of children and forced labor.

PROSECUTION

The government decreased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Trafficking in Persons Act of 2011 prohibits both sex trafficking and forced labor and contains extensive victim protections. It prescribes penalties of 15 years’ to life imprisonment, with fines, for trafficking crimes. The Children Act (2012)—which has yet to enter into force—prescribes penalties of 10 years’ to life imprisonment for subjecting a child to prostitution, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, the government’s anti-trafficking unit investigated 35 possible cases of trafficking and confirmed four of the 35 were trafficking, including one forced labor and three sex trafficking cases. The government initiated the prosecution of one suspected sex trafficker under the 2011 anti-trafficking law, a decrease from the initiation of prosecutions against 12 defendants in 2013. The government has yet to convict a trafficker; all prosecutions from previous years remained pending, though one defendant died. The counter-trafficking unit led efforts to investigate sex trafficking and forced labor in the country and included a deputy director, police and immigration officers, a communications director, and a legal advisor; the director resigned in 2014, and the unit was without permanent leadership at the end of the reporting period. The unit trained more than 100 government officials on trafficking indicators and collaborated with authorities in Venezuela to investigate a suspected trafficking ring. In December, the counter-trafficking unit identified a trafficking network in which immigration and police officers were implicated in facilitating the sex trafficking of Venezuelan women by helping to regularize victims’ immigration status and providing protection to the operation. The investigation was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. The government did not report any new investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses; prosecutions against three law enforcement officials for trafficking remained ongoing.

PROTECTION

The government sustained efforts to identify and protect trafficking victims. The government identified and referred eight foreign trafficking victims to care—six sex trafficking and two forced labor victims, seven female and one male victim—compared with nine victims identified in 2013. The counter-trafficking unit partnered with NGOs to provide services to victims. NGOs reported deficiencies in the counter-trafficking unit’s ability to arrange assistance for victims, which they attributed to decreased engagement between the unit and service providers. The counter-trafficking unit spent approximately 1 million Trinidad and Tobago dollars ($157,000) on victim care and protection. It provided funding to NGOs that in turn provided direct care and assistance; however, experts reported the government did not effectively allocate funding and resources to NGOs and other service providers. After an initial security assessment by the government, victims were allowed freedom of movement while staying in NGO-run shelters.

The counter-trafficking unit established standard operating procedures for reporting suspected trafficking cases. Immigration officials reported using the operational guide for victim identification, though procedures remained ad hoc in practice, and limited interagency coordination hindered progress. The government did not punish any identified trafficking victims for crimes committed as a direct result of a trafficking situation; however, unidentified victims were vulnerable to being inadvertently punished or charged with immigration or prostitution violations. Two of the victims identified during the reporting period, both Venezuelan women, were temporarily held in immigration detention after their traffickers released them. The counter-trafficking unit intervened for their release and referred them to care. The government provided three foreign trafficking victims with work and residence permits to remain in the country to assist law enforcement in trafficking investigations, a best practice in victim protection and reintegration. Most foreign victims provided a statement prior to repatriation. Victims that chose to participate in the trial process were afforded witness protection and were able to return to their home countries between court hearings. Some NGOs raised concerns the counter-trafficking unit did not always adhere to best practices in victim assistance. The government partnered with an internal organization and victims’ home governments to ensure safe and responsible repatriation for victims.

PREVENTION

The government sustained limited efforts to prevent trafficking. NGOs engaged in anti-trafficking work, however, reported a continued lack of awareness among government stakeholders and the general population. The government established an inter-ministerial national taskforce on trafficking in accordance with the anti-trafficking law. The taskforce convened once during the reporting period and did not develop a draft national plan of action, as mandated under its law. The counter-trafficking unit drafted, but did not release, a public report on government anti-trafficking efforts in 2014. The government did not launch a sufficient country-wide official awareness campaign to educate the public and officials about sex trafficking and forced labor. In March 2015, the counter-trafficking unit launched a toll-free hotline to receive reports of suspected human trafficking cases. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Authorities did not report any cases of child sex tourism investigated or prosecuted during the reporting period.

Source: www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/countries/2015/243551.htm

3 Responses to “U.S. Says T&T Police and Immigration Officers Involved in Sex Trafficking”


  • This practice has been going on for some time. If you can recall some time ago a Sergeant in the Police Service was
    suspended after being involved in trafficking women from Colombia and that was the last anyone heard of that.

    SO WHAT IS NEW

  • This is of particular concern because in TNT there has been the disappearance of several teenage girls over the past few years. Sex trafficking is prevelant globally and it is a crime that is only getting worst. In Cambodia little girls are sold by their poor parents to live a life of sexual slavery. In Canada and the U.S. Trafficking in young girls by pimps is growing. The main attraction easy money. Girls who are in their early teen are in high demand and can service several clients in one night bringing in a lot of money.

    Trinidad situation is unique, surrounded by several nations with their economies in shabbles the lure of a better life is very appealing until it is too late. Women from Panama has been coming to Trinidad and working in this industry over half a century. Many of them confined to brothels where their clients vary in age and monetary stature. In Penal there was a popular brothel name “country haven” where Columbian women were the desired meat, this was in the 80s. People were upset over this exploitation of women. The churches set to pray and a few years later country haven was mysteriously burnt to the ground, some believe it was an answer to prayer.
    The authorities tend to turn a blind eye to this serious exploitation of women, from time to time they do arrest but not enough is being done. More needs to be done.

  • Trinidad is still a developing country with very little government involvement protecting women on human trafficking, child labor laws, women shelters, and so many other policies that fail to protect the poor and disenfranchised. So, from my perspective, I think that Trinidad is no different from the many countries (akin to the counties you listed) that suffocate the women’s movement (including the loyal USA). Look folks, this is not about gender, race or income…it is about human dignity, about economic equality, about freedom to live and to co-exist on this planet. We have a long life span and we need to ensure that the next generation takes our specie to the next level on evolution. This one step forward and two step backwards needs to stop and it starts with all of you men out there who hold very racist, sexist views on women. You all need to take that 2 step forward with us and join your sisters. Your state of mind is juvenile and sub-primitive. We as women need you and you need us..for the sake of our specie. We need to change the way men perceive women, we need better educators and we need to eradicate this unbalance on human equality based on race and gender.
    Africa has the largest uneducated population…through no fault of the poor people but based on the despot that abuse the poor. India has a terrible system of corruption and greed. So let us take a new approach….We have co-existed for years and we need to move forward on our mental state of how we view poor people, uneducated and the disenfranchised…race and gender should not be a factor…can we do this..??? Trinidad is a great paradise and we love this island …lets look to the future and to the next generation. Eventually, the bright and poor children of T&T will see how the elite has dominated us with their nepotism and consanguinity. It will eventually come to a halt…except with the Rothchilds (the jewish family that control the world) and china…

Comments are currently closed.