IOM Supports Response to Human Trafficking and Gender-Based Violence in Trinidad and Tobago

Port of Spain – Let's call her Amanda. Her real identity must be protected.   

Amanda left Venezuela to seek work opportunities in Trinidad and Tobago. Someone recruited her for a job in prostitution, but after a few days, they denied her freedom of movement, subdued her through physical abuse, withheld her wages, and forced her to work extremely long hours.   

They kept her enslaved for two months until she and 11 other women escaped and made contact with law enforcement officers. Amanda was referred to the office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Port of Spain, and since then, she has been receiving emergency shelter.  

During crises, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, migrant women like Amanda are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Perpetrators seek to take advantage of their circumstances: financial insecurity, lack of awareness of their legal rights, language barriers, and their irregular immigration status in many countries of destination.   

IOM's 2019 Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) report revealed that 70 per cent of refugees and migrants from Venezuela arrive in Trinidad and Tobago through unofficial ports of entry.   

Last week, as part of the joint UN Interagency COVID-19 response, IOM provided thirty dignity kits to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) Gender Based Violence Unit (GBVU).  

"I am super grateful for the help; me and my daughter are very happy,” said Amanda. “I hope God blesses them because they have given us this support when we needed it most and we are really very grateful. Since being in this situation and with this problem (COVID-19) it has really affected us a lot also in my work ... I hope that God blesses them."  

IOM worked with three other victims from this particular case. Others opted to return home or have not been in contact with IOM. In total IOM is currently assisting 50 victims of trafficking in the country.  

"IOM is addressing human trafficking and gender-based violence throughout its operations, prioritizing the safety, dignity, well-being, and equal access to services for all migrant women and girls across all crisis responses," said Jewel Ali, IOM Head of Office in Trinidad and Tobago.  

The TTPS Gender Based Violence unit has made significant efforts towards ensuring the protection of victims of gender-based violence since its establishment on 21 January 2020. By reviewing global trends relating to gender-based crimes and crises, the GBVU is committed to developing and implementing systems for effective service delivery.   

The support provided by IOM to the TTPS-GBV Unit is possible thanks to the funding of the US State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) and UN Women.  

For more information, contact Cherlez Philip at IOM Trinidad and Tobago, Email: