Jun 08, 2015 News
– human trafficking raid nets 29
By Sunita Samaroo
By day, eleven of them slept on small bunk-beds in rooms that hardly left space for walking around; their clothes still kept in suitcases, and their lines of six-inch stilettos each hung neatly on their bed frames.
As many as six women would be cramped together, sharing a single bedroom in the three-bedroom upper flat of a nondescript two-storey house located on one of the quieter, more remote avenues of the small Region Seven community.
The house, bare of furnishings, had no television and the halls hung bare except for a moth-eaten mattress lying on the floor. The only seeming luxury in the living quarters was an air-conditioning set.
Their ‘boss,’ a Brazilian national lived just beneath them in an equally small apartment but he was afforded more luxuries: a flat screen television set, a wardrobe, air-conditioning set and other amenities.
But as night came, they would get ready for ‘work’ together and by 22:00 hours they would be decked out in the most revealing of outfits.
With long flowing black hair down their backs and clothes showing their skin, vehicles would pull up and without much ado the Latino women would come out of their home and pile in, heading to ‘work’.
This ‘work’ wasn’t far away as Bartica is a relatively small community located in Region Seven. In the bars, they stood all night taking orders from patrons and suspicion is that they were also engaged in other activities.
A short distance away, a similar operation was in its start up stages but that came to a halt early yesterday morning as the Counter Trafficking in Person Unit of the Ministry of Social Protection and the Guyana Women Miners’ Organisation (GWMO) raided their homes and the two business entities, as part of an investigation into human trafficking.
Heading the operation was internationally recognised Trafficking In Persons (TIP) Hero and recently appointed Minister within the Ministry of Social Protection, Simona Broomes.
As the team scoured Bartica, two bars/hotels on First Avenue, Bartica and the homes of the girls were raided. A number of women – Brazilians, Columbians, Venezuelans and Dominica Republicans and about three men were taken into custody.
In all, authorities found 29 foreign nationals living under suspicious circumstances from the various locations. Investigators are looking at the possibility that some of the women were being trafficked to Guyana and exploited, and being controlled by some Brazilian business people, including one who was previously charged with five counts of human trafficking.
The early morning raids were done on the Platinum Inn International Hotel and Bar and Top Notch Bar, located on separate ends of First Avenue, Bartica, Essequibo River.
The alleged victims are between the ages of 20 and 30. This is even as investigators found that four of the total had entered Guyana illegally and four had overstayed their time. After enduring a night of interrogation at the Bartica Police Station, they were taken to Georgetown for further investigations.
Broomes remarked that there has been a trend of women being recruited from the Dominican Republic, but it had gone unnoticed by officials in the past.
Of the six from the Dominican Republic that were ‘rescued’, three were sisters, she said.
The proprietor of one hotel was flagged by the GWMO as he was being observed for years. Also, women who had worked in one of Georgetown’s most popular strip clubs were among those netted in Bartica.
“There are also persons from (name of entity provided) here now and we have noticed a shift in how it is being run. We got that information of his connection internationally and that also is proving right because for example, one of the young ladies arrived from the Dominican Republic yesterday,” Broomes said.
According to the Junior Minister, one of the women arrived on these shores on Friday and was already in Bartica and working by Saturday night.
“She was sent directly to him (the proprietor). We were also informed that he would normally train them.” The operation, she said, was based on information received.
“We’ve been dealing with human trafficking for all these years and I’ve never felt this way. I was never on a raid where I was protected by the police,” she said as she showered the ranks with praise.
She revealed that collaboration was being done with the Ministry of Public Security as well.
Broomes made clear that she is on a mission, as Junior Minister, to bring Guyana to a decent state internationally where human trafficking is concerned and reduce the tier rate the country has over the years been bestowed with by the United States.
“These are some of the things that I will definitely take on. I’ve been there. I know where to find it. I know what to look for,” the Junior Minister remarked.
Broomes said that one of the alleged female perpetrators was scheduled to open her bar that night, but was seemingly alerted of the operation and was able to clean up her act.
“We knew that she brought in 18 girls into the Region to open a bar tonight here in Bartica.”
During the operation, the Junior Social Protection Minister assured the detained women that the government had nothing against them, but was trying to protect them. She said they wanted to ensure that they are here of their own free will and are not being coerced into anything.
“Their passports belong to them because they did not have their passports. (Name provided) who owns the building, he was the person with their passports.” This raised a major red flag for investigators.
“The investigations need to go very far. That is how we are going to deal with human trafficking, if you came here for a job, where are you working? Do you have a pay sheet? Do you pay taxes? Is anybody paying your insurance? You have a work permit?”
She said it is imperative for the Government to know what has been attracting the foreign women to come here even as they sometimes find themselves being trafficked. She assured that the investigation will be thorough.
“We have to make our analysis and put systems in place,” Broomes said. The Junior Minister was honored by the United States (US) as one of its International Heroes in the fight against human trafficking.
Meanwhile, Head of the GWMO’s TIP Unit, Marina Charles remarked that that had been the biggest raid ever conducted.
“We always feel that people are supposed to be free in whatever they are doing. They should be able to move around as they would like to. People should not be controlling people, that’s one of the things that we are against.”
“We will continue to fight,” said Charles as she added that the goal was to see human trafficking being completely eradicated from this country.
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