PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- According to the US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report 2014, Trinidad and Tobago has succeeded in rising from Tier 2 Watch list to Tier 2 as a result of the demonstration of significant commitment to eliminate human trafficking in the country.
The annual report acknowledged the successes of certain measures taken by the government, including:
• Strengthening of the Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU), which spearheaded investigations and drafted standard operating procedures.
• Designation of four prosecutors to specialize in the prosecution of trafficking cases and to work directly with investigators.
• Identification of an increased number of victims (trafficked for forced labour and sexual exploitation) and referral of the said victims for care.
• Investigation of 22 cases of trafficking.
• Commendable handling of victims by the CTU through the use of victim sensitive techniques when interviewing victims.
• Documentation of statements from most foreign victims prior to repatriation.
• Charges laid against a number of suspected offenders for the first time under the TIP Act of 2011.
• Proactive investigation of government officials for trafficking-related complicity.
• Cooperation between this country and the Dominican Republic, a source country of certain trafficking victims.
• Issuance of a work and residency permit to a foreign victim who assisted in a trafficking investigation.
• Granting of temporary immigration relief to victims.
• Partnering with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for the repatriation of identified victims.
• Funding of NGOs that provide care for victims.
• Provision of multiple specialized anti-trafficking training sessions throughout the year.
• Drafting of a plan for National Awareness Campaign in partnership with NGOs.
While the report criticized Trinidad and Tobago for not having in place formalized stand-alone identification procedures for front line responders, it was acknowledged that such an operations manual had already been drafted by the CTU.
It should be underscored that, though not mentioned in the TIP Report, the CTU has compiled an operational guide for law enforcement officers in the investigation of human trafficking.
Additionally the TIP Report highlighted the Children’s Act 2012 which though not yet enacted; contains stringent penalties for offences related to children. Trinidad and Tobago was commended for this.
Other anti-trafficking steps taken by the government of Trinidad and Tobago:
1) Sensitization sessions have been conducted for the judiciary, law enforcement agencies, schools, governmental and non-governmental agencies.
2) In Tobago, workshop sessions have also been held and a segment on human trafficking was produced by the Information Department of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA). This programme aired on February 23, 2014.
3) A brochure on Trafficking in Persons was also produced by the CTU and disseminated to several organizations. Trinidad and Tobago has also engaged in active collaboration with the government of Colombia (through the Colombian embassy) which led to the rescue of one victim.
4) Trinidad and Tobago has cooperated with the Dominican Republic leading to the arrest and conviction of two persons in that country for their involvement in the trafficking of a young Dominican female who was rescued in Trinidad.
In the final analysis, it should be concluded that significant strides have been made by the government of Trinidad and Tobago borne out by this country’s movement to the level of Tier 2. It is evident that all arms of the government have been making a collaborative effort to prevent trafficking in persons, strengthen the investigative capacity of agencies, protect and reintegrate victims and prosecute and convict offenders.