131 persons trafficked so far this year
By Isanella Patoir
Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan Wednesday said the Guyana Police Force has recorded 18 cases of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) for the year so far. The cases involved the trafficking of 131 persons, he said.
All of the victims were females and the cases were reported in Regions 2, 3, 4, and 7.
The Minister was speaking at the opening of a one-day training session for Welfare Officers and Guidance Counsellors from the Education Ministry on Wednesday at the Police Force Training Centre on Camp Street.
“The risk of human trafficking remains real throughout Guyana.
“…and so we must remain vigilant and we must utilize basically our education and the various hotlines that we have,” the Minister said.
Minister Ramjattan said the scourge of trafficking in persons for labour and sexual exploitation is most prevalent in the indigenous communities and is increasing frequently.
“In Guyana, women and children of our indigenous peoples are the most vulnerable, but generally women and children,” the Minister said.
According to the Minister, the action plan for the prevention, protection, prosecution of human trafficking has created huge advances.
But Ramjattan expressed disappointment over the fact that cases are not prosecuted fully, especially as it relates to trafficking of foreign nationals.
“It is always going to be difficult.
“First of all most of the witnesses speak a different language on those cases we see going down the drain and when they get caught and we investigate and find out who is the perpetrator, most of these victims want to go back home as they are from overseas countries,” the Minister said.
According to the Minister, the authorities are working to implement a witness protection programme so that the victims can stay until their cases are prosecuted, but it could be very costly as the trials sometimes take years.
“We have to do better in relation to that and probably ask them when they go home to Skype in their testimony on the trial date, but sometimes when they go back home we don’t get to meet or find or hear back from them,” the Minister said.
He said the majority of the persons are used to smuggle drugs across the borders or for labour and sexual exploitation. The Minister said trafficking in persons occurs frequently in depressed and poverty-stricken Latin America areas, with neigbouring country Venezuela being one of the most popular countries.
“They are working for these things that a number of people promised them – that life would be so great in the mining areas and forestry areas, and when they go there it is not really the truth and then they come and of course they are raped, then they start prostitution and they have to pay back the people like rent,” the Minister said.
Minister Ramjattan said they will also have to ask magistrates and judges to be prompt with these cases so the witnesses can be sent back to their country.
The Minister said the training session on Wednesday is an effort to combat human trafficking so that the welfare and guidance counsellors can recognize the signs of human trafficking as they interact mostly with at-risk youths.
“It is important for those who will be interacting with the children in our school system to also have a grasp of this scourge of humanity, trafficking in persons, and how it happens at the corners you will least expect,” the Minister said.