Ambassador: Where is the evidence?
July 16, 2010
Ambassador: Where is the evidence?

SVG’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Camillo Gonsalves, wants the United States to say where its gets its information on human trafficking in SVG.{{more}}

This country’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves, has described as “backward thinking” the evidence the United States has tabled in support of its claim that trafficking in persons (TIPS) exists here.

The United Sates uses “trafficking in persons” or “human trafficking” as umbrella terms for activities involving when one person obtains or holds another person in compelled service.

The major forms of human trafficking include forced labour sex trafficking, bonded labour, debt bondage among migrant labourers, involuntary domestic servitude, forced child labour, child soldiers, and child sex trafficking.

The United States Department of State has placed St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) on its “Tier 2 Watch List” of “countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards”.

Countries on this watch list also include those where there is a “very significant” or “significantly increasing” number of victims of severe forms of trafficking.

The list also includes countries that do not provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year.

“You and I know on the ground that there is no trafficking in persons happening in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Ambassador Gonsalves told journalists on Monday.

But the United States, in its 2010 TIP report, which covered 2009, said SVG “is a source country for some children subjected to trafficking in persons.”

It said those children were specifically for the purpose of sexual exploitation within the country and that SVG may also be a destination country for women in forced prostitution and men in forced labour.

“Reporting suggests that Vincentian children may participate in commercial sexual exploitation to supplement their families’ income,” the report said.

It further said that in those alleged situations, parents, relatives, or other care-givers receive in-kind or financial compensation or other benefits from a child engaging in sexual activities.

The report said there were suggestions that the number of victims trafficked into or through SVG “is comparatively small” but said information on the reported trafficking “is lacking, as the government has conducted no related investigations, studies, or surveys”.

“They are trying to prove a negative,” Ambassador Gonsalves said of some of the criteria the United States uses to establish human trafficking in a country.

“They say, for example, that St. Vincent and the Grenadines has not prosecuted anybody for trafficking in persons. Therefore, there must be trafficking in persons. That is as if you say St. Vincent and the Grenadines has not prosecuted anyone for biological weapons, therefore we must have biological weapons; St. Vincent and the Grenadines has not arrested any member of the Taliban, therefore we are supporting the Taliban. That sort of approach is backward thinking…” Gonsalves said.

“We, as CARICOM, have put legislations in place. We have policy in place against human trafficking and we will like to have a discussion with the United States about where they get there information from,” he said.

He said the discussion would also inform the United States about efforts by the political bloc to combat human trafficking.

“We are hoping that we can have this discussion before the next report is issued so that hopefully some of these misconceptions can be dealt with,” Gonsalves said.

He said CARICOM (Caribbean Community) nations have sought to verify with the United States the source of its information, but “they say that we can’t tell you that or we are not going to tell you that.”

CARICOM heads of government, at a meeting in Jamaica last week, reiterated their commitment to combating trafficking in persons.

They noted the policies of prevention, prosecution and victim protection which have been adopted and implemented in their member states to address this crime.

Heads of government said they were deeply concerned that the United States continued to place several CARICOM nations on their Tier II or Tier II Watch List, noting that countries that are placed on the Tier II Watch List for three successive years will be subject to sanctions by the USA.

“This unilateral rating is likely to affect several CARICOM countries,” the statement said. (KXC)