Jamaica’s official representative in Barbados has broken her silence about a network of coercion, where fellow Caribbean nationals, particularly women, are lured here with promises of legitimate work but end up being forced to work as ‘dancers’ or ‘on the streets’.
Ella Hoyos, Honorary Consul to Barbados, spoke to Barbados TODAY as police probe the death of 44-year-old Jamaican, Odith Antoinette Nicole Henriques, also known as ‘Jamaikey’, a reputed sex worker, in The City.
As she urged law enforcement officials to pay closer attention to the plight of Jamaicans and other nationals, particularly around the Bridgetown area, human trafficking expert Dr Olivia Smith revealed that women from as far away as Europe are also being targeted.
Hoyos revealed that according to her records, Henriques was also a cosmetologist before she was killed and her naked body left in an abandoned house at Beckwith Street.
Investigations further revealed that the mother of three, who from time to time travelled between Barbados and Jamaica, last visited her homeland to bury her son.
Relatives there are now said to be “distraught” about Henriquez’s own untimely death.
“The action sought to strip her, I think, of her humanity,” Hoyos told Barbados TODAY.
“That anybody would seek to bring about the end of her life, and to dispose of her body in that horrifying and dehumanizing way is just very appalling and I would hope that no matter the circumstances in which a female, whether Jamaican, Barbadian or any other nationality, finds herself, that another human being would not see it fit to bring about the end of their life and then dispose of their body in such an inhumane way.”
Police said several people were being questioned about the death of Henriques, who was staying in Nelson Street.
Hoyos warned that reports of violence against fellow citizens, particularly in Bridgetown, have been linked to online invitations for women, particularly from tough economic backgrounds, to pursue a better life here.
“Sometimes the interaction goes well and sometimes it goes awry in that when they come here, invariably the ticket is bought and paid for and I am told their passports are taken and they are made to work as dancers or on the streets to pay back for the tickets and to pay for their accommodation,” the Jamaican-Barbadian attorney explained.
“Some of them end up in bad situations in terms of the social and domestic condition in which they live and the kind of work they are expected to do.”
When contacted on Wednesday, Dr Smith, Executive Director of the Caribbean Anti Human-Trafficking Foundation, identified this scenario as “a clear indication of human trafficking”.
“Any time I invite you somewhere and then take your documents, which is a control mechanism and then I coerce you into doing something other than we originally agreed, those are clear indications of human trafficking. And we have that happening on several levels,” Dr Smith told Barbados TODAY.
Barbadian as well as Jamaican women living here are responsible for recruiting and travelling with the trafficked women to prevent the men behind the rings from being flagged by Immigration officials, she said.
While most victims are said to be from Jamaica, others hail from Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Venezuela and as far away as Eastern Europe.
Dr Smith claims that in some instances, parties make contact through social media, while others are lured through newspaper advertisements for employment in areas like massage therapy.
“While you can call it an escort service, they have no freedom of movement,” she said. “Everything to do with them is orchestrated and controlled, from going to the beauty salon to being seen by a doctor to ensure that they are medically fit, to transporting them. They have no freedom.”
Dr Smith added that while the Human Trafficking Unit is working assiduously on these issues, victims are extremely reluctant to make reports because of numerous social and economic factors.
Ambassador to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) David Comissiong has called for the scourge of human trafficking to be dealt with from a law enforcement standpoint.
Jamaica’s Honorary Consul has reported meaningful discussions with police and immigration officials. Still, she wants greater monitoring and surveillance of the so-called hotspot areas for sex trafficking.
Hoyos said: “I also think that when these matters are reported, I guess we need to have a swift investigation. They will only get reported, obviously, when things have turned sour, and it’s amazing that nobody who is involved in these interactions has ever been brought before a court or prosecuted for any of that activity. But I am sure in due course, the police will be able to connect dots and see where they are instances or where they may be repeat instances involving the same individual and perhaps take a closer look at that.”