Study uncovers causes of trafficking in persons, irregular migration trends in Trinidad and Tobago, provides recommendations


Spain - Trinidad and Tobago is considered a destination country for both regional and extra regional migrants, due to its level of development, employment and integration opportunities.  This reality has exposed the Caribbean island nation to irregular migratory flows which include human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

A new study published this week by the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Observatory on Migration, implemented by IOM, found that irregular migrants are mainly economic migrants between the age of 20 and 30, with little education and low-skilled.  They are drawn to Trinidad and Tobago because of the availability of jobs and attractive wages in what is being called ‘labour-starved sectors’.

Africans, Jamaicans and Guyanese tend to be employed as security guards and as gas station attendants; Chinese, and to a lesser degree Africans, are employed in food stores and restaurants; many Guyanese are employed in the agricultural sector; Guyanese, Jamaicans, Vietnamese and Africans work in construction sites; and domestic workers in private homes and hotels are mainly Guyanese and Grenadians.

The most common routes used by migrants include, air, land and sea routes through Venezuela, Panama, Colombia and Brazil.

An irregular migrant interviewed for the report confirmed: “I paid US$ 12,000. I remember going to the ‘Red House’ (a historical landmark in the capital, Port of Spain, used by Parliament in the past) for some papers; a woman friend took me there to get an affidavit ... The woman who helped me said she was taking responsibility. Without the papers I can’t do anything here, otherwise I would have been caught earlier on, so I must have papers.”

The study warns that irregular migrants, trafficked persons and smuggled migrants are exposed to various forms of abuse and exploitation, which ultimately lead to violations of their human rights.  Irregular migration, migrant smuggling and human trafficking can engender corruption at various levels of the society and encourage the proliferation of transnational organized crime, which are closely linked to other forms of criminal activities such as drug and arms trafficking.

The report determined that migrant smuggling in Trinidad and Tobago is facilitated by several factors; the main ones are: indented and poorly guarded coastlines; close proximity to South America; corrupt officials; and opportunistic locals, such as fishermen, villagers and other citizens who collude with smugglers.

The publication includes recommendations on short-term and long-term policies on irregular migration and strategies to address undocumented migrants, deportees, refugees and victims of trafficking.

The authors point to inherent gaps in existing frameworks and systems, such as the refugee determination process, Caribbean Community Single Market and Economy (CSME), Skilled Certificates process, work permits and some immigration procedures, which create and support numerous avenues for irregularity;

To maximize the benefits of migration for Trinidad and Tobago, the study recommends options for expanding legal channels for labour migration; regularization of migrants with strong economic and social ties; a cap on the maximum period of detention, along with more efficient systems to determine the identity of the migrant; more training for public officials to respond to the needs of victims of trafficking as well as public awareness on human trafficking.

The findings of the study are based on interviews with migrants in detention, as well as Government officials, NGO staff, embassies and international organizations actively involved in migration related matters.

Trinidad and Tobago was selected as a pilot country for the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Observatory on Migration, which was created to assist ACP Member States to conduct research and training activities on different aspects of South-South migration for policy development more efficiently manage migration issues.  The ACP Observatory is an initiative of the ACP Secretariat, funded by the European Union, implemented by IOM and with the financial support of Switzerland, IOM, the IOM Development Fund and UNFPA.

The study is available in English at:

For more information, please contact

Jewel Ali
IOM Port of Spain
Tel: + 1 868 623 2441 Ext 13138/9 or + 1 868 627 6969