US upgrades T&T to Tier 2 on Trafficking in Persons report

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US upgrades T&T to Tier 2 on Trafficking in Persons report

Trinidad and Tobago has been upgraded to Tier 2 in the Trafficking in Persons report. 

However, the report, which is published by the US State Department, says the country still has much work to do.

“The government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas,” the report read.  “Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes by some in the police and national security services, including at more senior levels, remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action.”

On the flip side, the report said government “demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period.” It said there were “increased investigations and prosecutions, enacting legislation to remove the lengthy preliminary inquiry process previously contributing to significant delays in the prosecution of trafficking and other crimes, and increasing judicial and police anti-trafficking personnel.

It praised the first conviction of a Tunapuna businessman, who was the first person to be convicted as a human trafficker in Trinidad and Tobago. 

The report said the government did not report efforts to investigate a violent home invasion of an anti-trafficking NGO representative by police, or those posing as police.” the report noted. 

In January, Venezuelan activist Yesenia Gonzalez  alleged she was assaulted by men she claimed were police officers.

The report listed several prioritised recommendations, such as increasing proactive victim identification, screening, and protection among vulnerable communities, which include children in children’s homes and schools, migrants awaiting deportation at immigration detention centres, and other migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees, the majority of whom are Venezuelans.

Another is to improve evidence collection, the quality of prosecutions, and co-operation between the CTU, prosecutors, the judiciary, other agencies and NGOs to increase the number of cases that go to trial.

“Ensure victims are not inappropriately penalised solely for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Continue to reduce judicial backlog,” the report said.

The report says a victim need not be physically transported from one location to another for the crime to fall within the definition of human trafficking.