by Latoya Burnham
Local organisation can help the victims of human trafficking, but they need to consider the risks and the public must be educated.
One organisation that asked not to be named, but that was close to the current case involving the arrest of two persons in what is said to be a case of human trafficking, said that Barbados was still learning how to deal with these situations.
The spokesman said that given that the case involving the raid of a brothel was the first major instance since the Transnational Organised Crime Bill was passed, Government and the National Task Force for the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons was to be lauded for the work done so far.
“To our knowledge this is the first time we have seen the issue this public and I think that is because of the Transnational Act 2011, which is not ideal but we have legislation in place recently. So even if it has happened before in Barbados, we would not have had the parameters or provisions for it at all legally.”
The source said she believed though that there was still some education that was necessary, given the new nature of the challenge facing countries like Barbados.
“We need to make sure we have lawyers, make sure all the stakeholders, especially the media are sensitised, because our draft protocol has that in it — that the media are supposed to be partners. We want to ensure that the victims are not revictimised in the media again. So education and sensitisation are key among all stakeholders.”
She added: “Service organisations are key to the anti-trafficking movement because of the need to have a victim-centred approach. Service organisations are important for provision of essential services: housing, clothing, food, comfort as the other private and public agencies work to solve the trafficking case or repatriate the victim.”
Capacity building, she further explained however, was what local NGOs and other agencies in the human rights and protection of individuals areas needed to be truly able to deal with the challenge.
“We need that capacity building. We are not experienced in this and we have to commend the country because at least we have started, but it has to be a victim centred approach. People have to know how to treat victims, people need to know where to house victims. We have to consider how we house them because in reality it is dangerous.
“The victim-centred approach is important because you have to remember that the victim is not a criminal, they were trafficked here, regardless of why they came, they were trafficked into the sex trade and no one should be forced into slavery. The fact is that as a sex worker you can’t even collect your money because 90 per cent is being harvested by someone and you are only allowed to keep about ten per cent, so training, understanding and sensitisation.
“So we would need more of that to build our own capacity as organisations to deal with these cases, to have police deal with them better, to have immigration deal with them better, medical services etc.”
Service organisations were also key for advocacy and education on the issue of trafficking and the effect it has on the victim, the family and the country, she stated.
“Law enforcement and immigration can be well supported and somewhat less pressured as they often do not have the service-facilities for the short to long term stay that the victim may end up having in the host country,” she said.
Furthermore, she explained that a deeper issue, even beyond the protection of victims in the country where they are “rescued”, was their own return, if possible to their homelands; something on which she indicated that the International Organisation on Migration was working with Barbados.
“The concern is that while there is a safety risk here, there is also a big safety risk back in their own country because of how connected [trafficking] is. Somebody would have had to know someone from Barbados to access a contact to help with the recruiting of these girls, so when all of that information comes out, it puts the lives of the women and the handlers and service providers at risk. So confidentiality is always key because of the risks of the situation.” [email protected]