– Human Services Minister
Of the 16 reported cases of Trafficking in Persons (TIP), a mere two charges have been laid thus far this year.
This was revealed by Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Jennifer Webster as she reported on the works of the Counter-Trafficking-in-Persons (CTIP) Unit at her end-of-year press briefing yesterday.
Minister Webster told members of the media that to date there are eight files which were completed and sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP); there have been two charges since.
According to the Minister, eight investigations are still ongoing and there are “some” TIP cases in the courts.
Webster went on to say “Trafficking in Persons continues to be an issue of utmost priority for Government of Guyana and for all the agencies involved in the fight against TIP.”
The Minister reported that they are looking to up the ante in 2015 and announced that the department of the Ministry was actively engaged “throughout the length and breadth of Guyana working in mining areas, working in communities around the country, sensitizing the populace”.
According to the Minister, various activities were also conducted in 30 schools and they have also formalized some mechanisms with other institutions across Government. The Ministry, she said, provided support to TIP victims totaling $983,851 for this year.
The Minister indicated that for 2015, according to their work plan, they have a number of activities that will continue.
“We have planned to work and publish 5000 TIP awareness booklets which we will be working with in-school youths – teaching them about Trafficking In Persons, what it is, and making them aware of this issue in a greater way,” Webster told members of the media.
The Minister said that plans are apace to work with institutions and to train young people, who are in institutions, on this issue.
She said that the Ministry has developed a number of public awareness ads and posters which are displayed at places like police outposts and Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) checkpoints in the hinterland.
“In addition to that, we have worked with civil society representatives. One hundred of them were trained and we are happy to report that there is greater participation now of civil society with this issue,” the Minister said.
Webster revealed that the Ministry is currently working on the establishment and operation of Area Action Task Forces in all administration regions to foster cooperation amongst on-the-ground representatives from Government, non-governmental organisations and faith-based organisations in TIP prevention activities.
As the Ministry seeks to set performance indicators for the fight against TIP, top priority has been given to having a minimum of 80% of TIP survivors employed or being inserted in an educational system.
Guyana was placed on the Tier 2 Watch List of the US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) 2014 report. It said “Guyana is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour. Guyanese and foreign women and girls—including from Venezuela, Suriname, and Brazil—are subjected to prostitution in Guyana.”
The US had said “While Guyana’s law contains incentives to encourage victims to participate in the prosecution of traffickers, including protection from punishment for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to human trafficking, in practice, victims often did not testify in court.”
“Media reports indicate that many trafficking prosecutions were dismissed because victims, many of whom were children, did not appear in court; the government did not take steps to ameliorate this problem.”
The report said “Traffickers are attracted to Guyana’s interior mining communities where there is limited government control, but Guyanese and foreign nationals are also vulnerable to trafficking in urban centres and elsewhere in the country.”
“The Government of Guyana does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government’s Ministry of Labour, Human Services, and Social Security (human services ministry) demonstrated concrete efforts to assist trafficking victims.”
According to the report, despite these efforts, the government did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous reporting period, therefore the country was placed on the Tier 2 Watch List.
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