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Human traffickers use a business approach

Persons dealing in human trafficking use a business-like approach, with the commodity being people.

“Exactly how you think of the company is used by the trafficker,” said Lourdes Gutiérrez, project coordinator Track for Tip (TRACK4Tip) Caribbean Team for the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), at a forum of business people on October 29. Thinking like a company in terms of  “manufacture”, “production”, “distribution”, “sale” and “consumer”, she said “but in this time we are talking about human beings”.

TRACK4TIP (Transforming alerts into criminal justice responses to trafficking in persons with migration flows) is a three-year (2019-2022), initiative by the UNODC and supported by the United States Department of State. It is being implemented in eight countries across South America and the Caribbean including Trinidad and Tobago.

Gutiérrez said victims are sold every day and the illicit trade has had an increase in demand and clients.  The black markets provide a space for the expansion of illicit financial flows; the suppliers, manufactures and end-consumers are always changing. Gutiérrez was speaking at the webinar, ‘Fighting Human Trafficking: Why this is also Your Business’ hosted by the Living Water Community (LWC) in collaboration with the TT Manufacturers Association and TRACK4Tip.  Rochelle Nakhid, LWC coordinator Ministry for Migrants and Refugees delivered opening remarks. The event was part of the Trade and Investment Convention 2020.

Dr Jason Haynes, deputy-dean graduate studies and research The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill campus, presented on ‘Human Trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago: Legal and Ethical Issues’ and Dr Cleophas Justin Pierre, director Dunn Pierre Barnett and Associates shared the findings of a study of human trafficking in the Cariforum Region, and on the current situation in Trinidad and Tobago.

Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring and receipt of persons. Gutiérrez identified some of the complexities of the human trafficking issue: the clandestine nature and complexity of investigating the crime; the relationship between the trafficker and the victims; distrust in the law, the police and immigration.  Human trafficking is the third most lucrative business in organised crime. Ranking first is drug trafficking followed by firearms trafficking.

Gutiérrez said human trafficking impacts the global economy because traffickers evade taxes. She continued, “they are involved in organised crime, money laundering…involved in terrorism in some cases and these kinds of crimes affects the people, the society but also the community.”

Victims of trafficking face different forms of exploitation: abduction; deception; and abuse of power. There was also forced marriage, begging and labour, illegal removal of organs, forced child soldiers and selling of children. “We have different modalities when they are selling a human being or rent a human being,” Gutiérrez said.  Many human rights violations including right to health, dignity, fair work and favourable conditions, freedom of movement/mobility occur with trafficking.

Victims are controlled with violence, collusion, seclusion, debt bondage, and isolation. “The forms of control of the victims depends on the victims and the trafficker,” Gutiérrez said.

With more children at home during the pandemic, she said the internet was “24-hours”and like an “open door” to the home. “We need to understand we have human rights in the internet, too, so we need to protect us and protect our family and our company.”   Gutiérrez stressed the need for cybersecurity, with “sextortion”—blackmailing under the threat of publishing or sending images of the victim, and grooming taking place online.  She highlighted the role of social media in trafficking for recruitment of victims, exploitation, distribution and marketing.

“It also involves the commercialisation of the human trafficking in the internet,” Gutiérrez said.

Focusing on business ethics in the private sector, she said businesses should try to avoid corruption, have corporate codes of conduct and promote human rights in the company. She urged businesses to verify their supply chains and try to do prevention inside their companies.

“Report everything you have for investigation,” she said.


Penalties for companies

Dr Haynes gave an overview of international and domestic laws on human trafficking.

He said in TT under the Trafficking in Persons Chap 12:10 of 2016, the “body corporate” that engages in trafficking in persons can be liable for commission of trafficking offences.

A body corporate on conviction can be subject to a TT $5 million fine and its directors and those authorised to make decisions can be “implicitly held to also have committed an offence” and face “stringent penalties” including imprisonment.

Haynes explained, “Those offences may be committed simply for example, if a senior member of staff of a particular company engages in the trafficking of persons or in circumstances your instrumentalities, equipment, machinery are used for the purposes of facilitating trafficking.” He added, that offences may also be committed if the premises of a business are used to facilitate trafficking or an overseas enterprise or particular entities, subsidiaries in the supply chain are utilised by persons involved in trafficking. Haynes said TT was moving in the direction of ensuring adequate protection is afforded to victims of trafficking by penalising companies that engage in trafficking enterprises.

Dr Haynes said in addition to fines, there is also revocation of business licenses, the possibility of winding up the company and forfeiture of assists and properties.