Hinds on human trafficking scourge – TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO CAN DO BETTER

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

HAVING A GOOD TIME: National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds dances with sisters Stasha and Stashelle George of the Malick Folk Performing Company at the opening of the three-day forum on human trafficking at the Trinidad Hilton on Mnday. PHOTO BY JENSEN LA VENDE –

AS THE world struggles to identify and address victims of human trafficking – said to be in the millions of people – fueling a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds admits more can be done in this country, despite all that has already been done.

Hinds was one of the speakers at the opening of a three-day forum focused on trafficking in persons hosted by The Freedom from Slavery group at the Trinidad Hilton, St Ann’s.

Hinds made it clear that no country is immune from human trafficking.

“I was amazed to learn from one former ambassador earlier today that (globally) we are identifying less than one per cent of the real number of people who have been trafficked. We are assessed on an annual basis on the basis of our fight against human trafficking.

“But from that statistic, it seems as though globally we are not doing very well. And as minister with this responsibility, I know the efforts that we have been making to educate our citizens, various interest groups, stakeholders, so that they can recognise human trafficking and its victims.”

Hinds reminded that last year, TT maintained its Tier2 Watchlist rating in the US Trafficking In Persons Report. While failing to improve from the previous year, Hinds pointed out that work has been done since that report published in July.

Part of the report read: “The government did not take action against senior government officials alleged in 2020 to be involved in human trafficking. Victim identification and services remain weak, and the government did not formally adopt the National Action Plan (NAP) for 2021-2023. Therefore Trinidad and Tobago remains on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.”

Some of the work done to tackle the issue, by government was a five-year plan and the judicial intervention with the passage of legislation to allow people charged with human trafficking to forego preliminary inquiries and go straight to the High Courts for determination.

The Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Amendment Act was passed and gazetted and is awaiting proclamation.

“As part of this country’s efforts to counter human trafficking, a national task force against trafficking in persons was established. I was designated chair for the moment. A national plan of action against trafficking in persons, 2021 to 2025, was approved by Cabinet. And this covers for effective identification of victims and witnesses, prevention, protection of survivors and witnesses and prosecution.”

The task force, Hinds said, is focused on educating citizens to better identify victims of human trafficking to be better able to contribute to solving the problem. He added that he will “ensure that Trinidad and Tobago accentuates its efforts in this regard.”

Former US ambassador-at-large (to monitor and combat human trafficking) John Richmond, who in his address, said in solving the problem, stakeholders should focus on urgency, uniqueness and unity.

“It is clear we are losing ground in our fight against human traffickers. We are identifying less than half of one percent of all victims around the world each year. Governments last year identified 90,354 victims and we’re estimating now that there are 27.6 million victims and that is the most conservative number.”

He said the low identifying number should call those who want to fight human trafficking to urgency, depart from the normal way of doing things and start resourcing new ways to tackle the problem.

He said the uniqueness comes from forums like this one which is more decentralised with a global aim of eradicating the problem. Unity, he said, is not sameness as it pertains to solving the problem and asked that the forum focus on solutions.

Freda Catheus of Haiti’s Beyond Borders group said her advice would be to create economic opportunities within one’s country that will counter the need by desperate citizens to allow themselves to be exploited by human traffickers.

Labour market and migrant consultant Dr Justine Pierre said his main recommendation will be to increase the data available on traffickers which will create a targeted approach on preventing human trafficking while targeting traffickers.

Executive director of the Freedom from Slavery group, Bukeni Waruzi, said there is an evil in society which is called modern day slavery, and it should be the duty of everyone to come together and fight it.

“It destroys our culture, it destroys our humanity and it destroys our lives. Everyone is affected by this, whether it be human trafficking, forced labour and child labour,” Waruzi said, adding that the coming together of stakeholders locally, regionally and internationally is needed to adequately tackle human trafficking.