By Pat Dial
Kaieteur News – At the end of last month, two important anniversaries claimed the attention of this column – Emancipation Day and the International Day Against Trafficking in Persons (TIP). As was inevitable, Emancipation Day was chosen as it more intimately concerned Guyana than TIP. TIP however, is of great international importance and Guyana, with its growing national wealth and the beginnings of an influx of foreigners into the country, the importance of TIP is growing.
The observance of the International Day Against Trafficking in Persons (TIP) occurs every year on 30th July. The theme for this year’s observance is “Use and Abuse of Technology” and this focuses on the role technology could play both to enable and to impede human trafficking.
TIP is the largest criminal enterprise in the world, second only to dealing in guns and drugs. In the Laws of Guyana, TIP is defined as: “The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by means of the threat of the use of force or other means of coercion, or by abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, or by the giving and receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control of another person, for the purposes of exploitation”.
When this definition is manifested in actuality, it entails sexual exploitation such as forcing women into prostitution or to be sex slaves; forced labour; slavery where the person trafficked is at the will and command of a master, reminiscent of plantation slavery. There have been cases where trafficked persons have had their organs removed and sold as replacements. In many cases, trafficked persons are denied medical attention and are almost always psychologically and spiritually damaged.
Criminal gangs or syndicates are almost always involved in human trafficking and are always difficult to trace or apprehend. Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that if the victims were to assist the police in apprehending them, the syndicate would have the victims or their families hurt or killed.
The most publicised form of human trafficking is the illegal immigration to Europe and North America. Every year hundreds of Africans die in the Sahara Desert when they are abandoned by the traffickers or drown in the Mediterranean when the unseaworthy craft, into which they are overcrowded, sink. A similar scenario occurs when Africans and Asians attempt to cross the English Channel to get to Britain in unseaworthy craft. Haitians attempting to reach Florida with unseaworthy craft often drown. Very few, if any, of the traffickers have so far been apprehended.
In Guyana, most of the human trafficking has been on Haitians who arrive by air and then enter the neighbouring countries illegally with a few attempting to settle in the Interior as miners or loggers. The other stream of trafficked persons consists of women, mostly from The Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil whom the traffickers use for prostitution. These are found in the night clubs and Interior mining districts. The traffickers extort their “fees” from the victims either as a full advance payment of several thousand US dollars per person as in the case of being smuggled to Europe and North America or the traffickers collect most of the earnings of the victims over a period of years.
The Judiciary has had the foresight to establish a special court to try TIP matters with special procedures. These include the victim’s advocate being required to report on the victim’s psychological condition as to whether he or she is ready or able to give evidence. Also, during the case management hearing, the prosecution will outline what forms of special measures are needed for the victim and witnesses. Such could include protective screens for the witness box, audio video link and use of language interpreters.
The matter is heard in camera and only concerned parties are allowed in the courtroom. Trials are adjourned from day to day and the victim is allowed to sit and have an advocate, family member or friend with him or her throughout the trial and advise whether the victim needs a break or rest. In cross examinations, the court will disallow questions which are not allowed and ensure there are no repetitive questions. Undocumented victims will not be prosecuted.
Human Trafficking is a global problem affecting various countries at various levels of acuteness and exchange of experience and information would assist each other. Guyana is beginning to cultivate such exchanges.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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