Diana Mahabir-Wyatt

Diana Mahabir-Wyatt

A call has been made to help trafficked Venezuelan women and children instead of sending them back to Venezuela.

According to the Caribbean Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), returning trafficked persons including children to Venezuela places them at further risk of exploitation, violence and contracting Covid-19.

CCHR chairman Diana Mahabir-Wyatt yesterday appealed for Government to work with stakeholders to address the issue.

“CCHR urges the government to adhere to international human rights standards and principles to safeguard the rights of these persons, and to work with stakeholders and civil society to do so,” she stated.

The CCHR stated in a release it was deeply concerned about the recent detention of Venezuelan nationals, including a number of women and children under the age of two, who may be possible victims of trafficking (VOTs).

It noted that crises continue to force Venezuelans to leave their country, seeking international protection due to threats to their lives and fear of persecution.

“These vulnerabilities place them at heightened risk of exploitation and human trafficking. Taking Covid-19 precautions into account, CCHR calls for a measured solution that places human rights first,” it stated.

CCHR expressed the need for a collaborative approach towards the protection needs of recent arrivals.

It stated that a human rights-based approach requires an assurance that all foreign nationals identified as victims of trafficking are informed about their right to request international protection and are able to access fair and efficient asylum procedures.

These vulnerable persons, it stated, should be provided with access to necessary support and services including access to legal services, safe shelter, and psycho-social support.

CCHR commended the Government for its response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its efforts at mitigating the risk to public health by quarantining Venezuelans who have arrived irregularly and expressed appreciation over Government’s commitment to investigating the alleged perpetrators of human trafficking.

High demand for sex in T&T 

This week a 2019 Caricom Human Trafficking study revealed that law enforcement officers play a key role in the facilitation of human trafficking between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago.

Researcher Dr C Justine Pierre and his assistant Nayrobis Rodriguez conducted the in-depth study, gathering information from traffickers, smugglers, victims, law enforcement officers, as well as from anti-human trafficking organisations in more than 32 countries.

“During our eight-month human trafficking investigation in the Caribbean (July 2019 to February 2020), we discovered that there was a higher demand for sex and prostitution services in Trinidad and Tobago when compared with other English-speaking countries in Caricom,” stated Pierre.

He added that due to its proximity to Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago is now one of the leading destination countries for trafficking in people from the northern and central parts of Venezuela. “Although official data on the number of people trafficked between these two countries is limited, the authors of this report estimate that close to 4,000 victims in the Güiria area only have been sold by Venezuelan human trafficking cartels to Trinidad and Tobago over the last four to six years,” the report stated.

The report noted that over one year after the shipwreck in the town of Güiria, small boats with minimal to no safety features continue to set sail with passengers travelling to T&T.

“They want to escape poverty in Venezuela and have an opportunity to work and earn in foreign currency to send money back to their relatives. However, these economic victims continue to be trafficked in exchange for food, medical supplies, household items, and money,” it stated.

“Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, human trafficking continues unabated. Young women who do not know that their destiny is prostitution are still being trafficked to the twin island republic. Our research on human trafficking indicated that Trinidad and Tobago have the highest demand for sex and prostitution services in the region which is estimated at 81 per cent,” the report added.