— as probe deepens into trafficking of Haitians here
THE KEY players involved in the Trafficking In Persons (TIP) ring to smuggle several Haitians, adults and children into Guyana are in police custody, Crime Chief Wendell Blanhum said on Wednesday.
He told the Guyana Chronicle that while no one has yet been charged, a thorough investigation is being conducted as those in custody are believed to “be part of a human smuggling ring.”
He explained that it would be premature to divulge additional information on the investigation, but noted that the TIP victims, who reportedly arrived in Guyana last Friday, are safe.
“The key players are detained and the victims are safe,” said Blanhum.
The Guyana Chronicle understands that there are 30 victims of whom 16 are adults and the remainder children. It should be noted that the parents of the 14 children are reportedly not victims of the smuggling. The victims are currently in protective care and it is unclear whether they will be deported.
Social Protection Minister, Amna Ally confirmed the number of victims and told this newspaper that the victims are being housed at ‘safe houses’ across the country. She explained that the situation is troubling as it appears Guyana is a transit point for human smuggling to neighbouring South American countries.
It is believed that the Haitian nationals were brought to Guyana to be transported via Suriname to French Guiana where they were promised betterment.
“It is unclear what actions will be taken… the Ministry of Citizenship is dealing with the immigration matters and the police are addressing other matters relevant to the smuggling ring.”
As such, Minister Ally said “a decision will be taken after the investigation is completed.”
The Social Protection minister said her administration will not rest until TIP is stamped out completely and noted that the trafficking of humans is a serious criminal offence.
“We have to bring an end to it,” said the minister, who reminded that several persons have been placed before the courts over the past few months for committing the crime.
Earlier this year, President David Granger issued a strong warning to perpetrators of TIP, noting that his administration will not tolerate the heinous crime.
The president was at the time speaking at the launch of the National Plan of Action for the prevention and response to TIP for 2017 and 2018.
At that forum, the President said all victims will be protected and perpetrators punished.
“The Government of Guyana today is committed to reversing this indifference towards the crime of trafficking-in-persons. We will do so by enhancing education and strengthening enforcement in order to eliminate the scourge entirely,” he said.
The Head-of-State made it clear that human traffickers must be identified and prosecuted with the full force of the law. He stated that the “fear of prosecution must serve as a deterrent against human-trafficking.”
He stressed that “victims of trafficking-in-persons need protection. They are often helpless. They are often afraid to speak out. They generally lack resources to seek assistance. Many of the victims being held against their will may be illegal immigrants and, therefore, afraid to go to the authorities for fear of being deported or prosecuted. Victims of trafficking in persons must be protected and provided with assistance for their recovery and reintegration into society,” said President Granger who said it is necessary to “lift the veil off TIP.”
Statistics provided in January showed that there has been a notable increase of TIP cases from 2014 to 2016 and Coordinator (ag) of the C-TIP Unit in the Ministry of Social Protection, Tanisha Williams-Corbin said that in 2014 there were 40 cases, five males and 35 females, while in 2015, there were 59 cases with three males and 56 females. Last year there was an increase of 98 cases, 13 males and 85 females.
She noted that of the 197 identified victims from 2014-2016, the majority were females. Williams-Corbin also reported that 89.3 per cent of the victims were 32 years and below, while most of the victims were nationals. Non-nationals represented 41 per cent of the total number of suspected cases.