UN urges regional countries to help stop trafficking in personsFriday, July 30, 2021
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – Caribbean countries are observing World Day against Trafficking in Persons (TIP) on Friday even as the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, warns that in the midst of a global pandemic, accompanied by rising inequalities and economic devastation, the voices of human trafficking survivors and victims risk being drowned out.
“But listening to their stories is more crucial than ever as the COVID-19 crisis increases fragilities and drives up desperation. As many as 124 million more people have been pushed into extreme poverty by the pandemic, leaving many millions vulnerable to trafficking,” he said in a message to mark the occasion.
A fact sheet on TIP in the Caribbean, released by the UN with specific reference to five countries, namely, Aruba, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, notes that long before the Venezuelan crisis or the pandemic, human trafficking, and smuggling were a reality in the sub-region.
It said Colombian, Dominican, and Haitian nationals, among others, have continuously been lured to Caribbean countries on false promises of high-paying jobs in tourism, construction, hospitality, domestic work, and mining.
“The identification of Venezuelan victims of trafficking (VoTs) by national institutions is estimated to be higher every year across Caribbean countries. This phenomenon is directly connected to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and the outflow of Venezuelan refugees and migrants (R&Ms) to the sub-region since 2017, due to the deteriorating political, human rights and socioeconomic situation in the Latin American country, further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the document said.
It added that legal, economic, social, and logistical factors specific to Caribbean sub-regional countries affect the capacity to combat trafficking in persons and that Aruba, Dominican Republic, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago are bound by the United Nations Convention against Transnational Crime and Protocols and in recent years, all five countries have taken significant steps to fight smuggling and trafficking.
These have included adopting legal frameworks and establishing national institutions that identify and assist survivors, including specialised police forces and law enforcement units for investigating and prosecuting trafficking crimes using a victim-centred approach.
Moreover, governments set up a Caribbean Migration Consultations (CMC) Counter-Trafficking Network in 2016 to enhance cross border collaborative efforts.
But the document notes that despite progress in the fields of prevention, identification, protection, prosecution and partnerships, and the support of refugees and migrants partners, “trafficking trends in the sub-region continue to rise with many victims remaining unidentified or inadequately assisted, and with reports of an increased proportion of teenage girls affected by the situation of trafficking”.
It said that resources have been allocated to support the prevention and protection of victims, with dedicated and trained staff, although needs are not being fully met. Investigations and prosecutions are lengthy, and few perpetrators are brought to court and sentenced.
“Traffickers continue to reap large profits and impunity prevails,” the document said.
In his statement, Guterres said children are at great and growing risk of being trafficked and that they represent one-third of victims globally, a share that has tripled in the last 15 years.
“Half of victims in low-income countries are children, most of whom are trafficked for forced labour. Criminals everywhere are using technology to identify, control and exploit vulnerable people. Children are increasingly targeted through online platforms for sexual exploitation, forced marriage and other forms of abuse.
“Trafficking in women and girls for the purpose of sexual exploitation continues to be one of the most widespread and abhorrent forms of human trafficking. Migrants account for more than half of those trafficked in most regions,” he said.
He urged governments to take urgent steps to strengthen prevention, support victims and bring perpetrators to justice.
“This includes implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons. Our efforts must be guided by survivors of trafficking. Their contribution is essential to address risk factors and patterns, and to identify and protect victims and ensure their access to justice and recovery, while holding their exploiters accountable,” Guterres stated.
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