…Min. Ally says scourge must be stamped out
SEVERAL alleged victims of human trafficking who were rounded up during operations over the weekend have been placed in safe houses and six of the traffickers have been arrested as police and the Trafficking-in-Person Task Force open investigations into the cases.Nine victims were rescued during two separate operations conducted by the Ministry of Social Protection’s Counter-Trafficking in Persons (C-TIP) Unit early Saturday morning. Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally, in an interview on Monday with Guyana Chronicle, said the arrests were made during the two operations which took place on the West Coast Demerara (WCD), Region Three and Providence, East Bank Demerara (EBD), Region Four.
In the case of Region Three, one victim was arrested and taken to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for questioning and according to the Minister, the victim – a female, is of Cuban nationality. The Cuban national has been cooperating with law enforcement officers and has been communicating with officials through a translator.
“She was taken to a safe place by the Ministry of Social Protection,” Ally said, noting that her Ministry is working to “ensure that the victim’s rights are protected.” The victim returned to the CID headquarters located at Eve Leary, Kingston, Georgetown on Monday to assist law enforcement officials with their investigations.
“In the case of the Region Three, West Coast Demerara, two arrests have been made, the owner of the building or the proprietor and a Disc Jockey (DJ),” Minister Ally disclosed. Additionally, the Minister noted that the TIP Task Force also conducted a raid at the Bollywood night club, located at Providence, EBD, where eight alleged victims were rescued. According to the Minister, four alleged perpetrators were arrested including two females, one a bartender and the other, the wife of the proprietor.
“At approximately 2:30am on Saturday morning the operation took place and these eight persons were rescued.” The Minister told Guyana Chronicle that the alleged victims of TIP have all been placed into a safe house and are under watch by the Police Force.
“We are seeking the service of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) so that the rights of the one alleged victim (foreign national) would be taken care of…we will be following up on the status of the case with the Criminal Investigation Department,” she stated.
Minister Ally was adamant that TIP must be stamped out and noted that her ministry is taking all steps necessary to ensure the scourge is rooted out. “This question of TIP must be stopped; this is a serious and also a criminal offence…the people who perpetrate this need to stop; they need to understand that women are valuable resources,” the Minister added, while noting that her administration views the issue as one of major national importance.
“We are very serious about it; we have to bring an end to it,” Minister Ally demanded while emphasising that there is great need for the rights and dignity of all persons to be protected. Additionally, the Minister said human- trafficking has no boundaries and as such is everybody’s business.
Meanwhile, the rescuing of the alleged TIP victims comes days after President David Granger issued a strong warning to perpetrators of the crime that his administration will not be tolerating the heinous crime.
Speaking at the launch of the National Plan of Action for the prevention and response to TIP for 2017 and 2018, the head-of-state assured that all victims would be protected and all 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.”
President Granger said too that the issue would be tackled frontally and noted that several systems have been put in place to reduce the incidences of TIP across the country. He said too that wardens will be stationed in several hinterland locations where TIP is deemed prevalent to act as a deterrent to the scourge.
“Traffickers must be identified and prosecuted with the full force of the law… The fear of prosecution must serve as a deterrent against human-trafficking. Guyana seeks to provide [the] ‘good life’ for all of its citizens. The ‘good life’ includes protecting vulnerable citizens from the threats of servitude, sexual exploitation and forced labour. 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,” President Granger said, noting that it is necessary to “lift the veil of TIP.”
In May 2013, the President while serving as leader of the opposition had brought a motion calling for a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to investigate Trafficking-in-Persons here.
Meanwhile, there has been a notable increase in the number of suspected TIP cases from 2014 to 2016 and according to the Coordinator (ag) of the C-TIP Unit in the Ministry of Social Protection, Tanisha Williams-Corbin 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.
The acting coordinator of the C-TIP Unit noted that of the 197 identified victims from 2014-2016 the majority were females. She 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. Additionally, C-TIP Unit Coordinator said 44.2 per cent of the suspected cases occurred in Region Four while 22.3 per cent occurred in Region Seven. The National Action Plan intends to tackle TIP through prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership.