The Trafficking Dynamics in the Caribbean Region: How local authorities and stakeholders coordinate their efforts

Ten years ago, few Caribbean countries had a national law that criminalized human trafficking, cases on official record, hotlines or counter-trafficking units to assist victims and pursue traffickers. These days you would be hard-pressed to find a Caribbean country lacking any of these essential tools.

Attention to and action against human trafficking has grown significantly in the Caribbean. Stakeholders’ efforts are now coming to fruition and there is a noticeable increase in the number of identified and assisted victims and the number of cases before the courts. For example, in 2004, IOM did not have a record of one victim of trafficking identified in the English- and Dutchspeaking Caribbean. As of 2012, IOM records indicate that stakeholders have identified and assisted more than 80 victims.

Caribbean stakeholders have made steady progress with developing screening methods and forms, as well as multi-agency referral mechanisms, while overcoming some very practical obstacles like limited human and financial resources for providing services, the lack of shelter facilities, and the absence of any real way to keep information confidential, because everyone knows everyone in small communities. Increasingly, stakeholders have been relying on national and bilateral cooperation to tackle such challenges.

It is becoming clearer that the region’s trafficking dynamics mirror the world’s most common methods of recruitment, deception, transportation, coercion and exploitation. For example, some Caribbean women were offered ‘great’ jobs through text messaging and social networking websites, and ended up trafficked for sexual exploitation in another Caribbean country.

Some victims from South Asia and Eastern Europe were recruited, with the promises of a better life and more money, only to arrive in the Caribbean and be forced to labour in houses, factories, small retail shops or dance clubs. Some males were recruited from East Asia and Central America and trafficked as fishermen.

Also reflecting global dynamics, some victims have been trafficked within their own country.

Many of the victims who have been identified and assisted by IOM and its Caribbean partners have children, are between 20 and 30 years of age, have a debt because of the trafficking experience, and had no way to return home.

The Caribbean’s small developing nation States may not have a scale of human trafficking that compares to other countries around the world, but the dynamics and stakeholders’ responses to the crime are worthy of comparison.

And although the scale remains smaller, there are likely to be more victims to be identified and assisted and more traffickers to be prosecuted and convicted. The region’s range of stakeholders, such as Antigua and Barbuda’s Gender Affairs and Immigration Departments, Guyana’s Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, Jamaica’s specialized police unit and St. Maarten’s ATIP Foundation, are dedicated and will persist in the fight by expanding their responses through action.

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