July 31, 2015
Vincentian woman saved from potential trafficking – PM

The Anti-trafficking in Persons Unit in this country recently prevented a Vincentian woman from becoming the victim of a potential trafficking and scamming incident.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, during a press conference on Tuesday, was reading from the {{more}}second 2015 quarterly report of the Anti-trafficking in Persons task force when he shared the details of this case.

Gonsalves, who is also the chair of the task force, revealed that recently, a young lady from a rural area in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) was contacted via Facebook by a woman purporting to be a medical doctor attached to a United States Navy office based in the United Kingdom.

“The so-called doctor offered her a job to be a nanny for her two daughters and during the process, [acquire] a visa and work permit for this young lady. The young lady expressed an interest in the offer. She later got an e-mail from this so- called doctor, outlining the fees to process the documents, which totalled US$1,325,” the Prime Minister said.

He also revealed that a letter from the perpetrator stated that the young lady’s salary would be US$2,800, US$33,600 annually.

Gonsalves stated that the young lady shared the information with her family, who became suspicious of the offer and contacted the police and the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit.

“The US knows about this because the unit contacted the relevant person at the US Embassy in Barbados with all the information and the gentleman from the US Embassy later replied and confirmed that the so-called doctor was a fake,” he said.

The Prime Minister placed this incident in direct contrast with Monday’s release of the international 2015 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, in which St Vincent and the Grenadines remains listed on the Tier 2 watch list.

According to the report, the Government of SVG has acknowledged a TIP problem in this country and while significant effort is being made, these efforts are not enough, as the designated task force has not prosecuted anyone of the crime since 2009.

“The Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is placed on Tier 2 Watch List,” the report reads.

“The government demonstrated minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Bill of 2011 prohibits sex trafficking and forced labor, including bonded labor, and prescribes punishments of up to 20 years’ imprisonment with fines. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government did not prosecute or convict any traffickers in 2014.”

In Gonsalves’ view, the 2015 TIP report was “unclear, stylized and in some parts, wrong-headed,” particularly since other countries in the Caribbean had more detailed reports.

“If you read the report, which they have on Trinidad, with a whole set of specificities and you read the report on us, you would see that I tell you it’s inchoate, it is lacking specificity of some gravamen, it is stylizing certain facts in search of a theory of explanation and in certain cases, plain wrong-headed,” he said.

Despite these views, the Prime Minister noted that the Government will work with all persons who are interested in addressing the global problem of TIP. He added that the local task force which has responsibility for such matters will continue to carry out its work and he encouraged persons to report matters that they suspect are related to trafficking in persons.

“This is why our people have to be careful and in case of any of these things, just inform the police and Anti-trafficking in Persons Unit,” Gonsalves advised. (BK)