Better Awareness Raising Can Counter Human Trafficking in the Caribbean

Posted: 
04/08/14

Trinidad and Tobago - IOM is bringing together key Caribbean partners at a two-day workshop starting tomorrow (9/4) in Trinidad and Tobago to improve awareness raising efforts to counter human trafficking in the Caribbean. 

Thirty key stakeholders who are leading local initiatives to combat the crime, from Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago will attend the event in the capital Port of Spain.

“One aim of the workshop is to promote amongst the participants the use of regional cooperation and to share information, ideas and techniques,” said Chissey Mueller, IOM Project Manager.

Other topics to be discussed include: traditional public awareness tools, such as print materials and radio and TV spots, and exploring using other communication methods such as music and interactive performance for community outreach. 

IOM has been working for more than eight years with countries in the Caribbean training officials and NGO staff, providing assistance to victims, and raising public awareness through information campaigns. 

“During this time, Caribbean countries have worked to formalize and institutionalize their response mechanisms to human trafficking, particularly the trends of sexual exploitation, forced labor and domestic servitude.  Consequently, the number of trafficked persons identified by IOM’s Caribbean partners now exceeds 300.  This is a remarkable number for a region where the popular consensus ten years ago was that the issue was not ‘pressing,’ and there were no cases on official record,” added Mueller.

Aruba got its first conviction of a trafficker in 2013 and there are currently trafficking cases before the courts in Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.   

“In 2014, if the countries increase their awareness raising efforts, the number of referrals and eventually identified victims should also increase and, more importantly, the local stakeholders now have a range of technical tools to respond,” concluded Mueller.

The victims are from near and far. They include India, Indonesia, Myanmar, as well as nearby Jamaica, Guyana, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic.   Usually local “recruiters” help to organize the travel, which can take place either through legal or illegal routes. There have been a few cases where the traffickers have travelled to the country of origin to “recruit” would-be workers with promises of well-paid jobs.  Some victims have been told that they could have a nice vacation in the country of destination. Domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, and forced labor were usually the result.

The workshop this week will be the last activity of IOM’s three-year regional project in the five countries.  Funding from the US Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP) began in October 2011 with the goal of strengthening the capacity of stakeholders, particularly law enforcement, to investigate and prosecute cases of human trafficking, while protecting victims through identification and assistance.

For more information, please contact

Chissey Mueller
IOM Port of Spain
Tel. +1 868 727 0244
Email: cmueller@iom.int