Bringing Light to the Darkness of Human Trafficking (Trafficking in Persons)

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HUMAN trafficking is an issue of great concern in the Turks and Caicos Islands, according to the TCI Human Rights Commission.
The watchdog group issued a statement on Monday (April 16) in the wake of an immigration task force sweep which saw the detention and repatriation of 36 women from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Columbia.
The commission said human trafficking is modern day slavery and is common in the TCI with enablers throughout the territory.
It added that women are usually provided with visas or work permits and are brought to the Islands under the pretext of legitimate working opportunities such as bar maids, nannies, waitresses and dancers.
They then often find themselves, unwillingly in most cases, plying sexual favours, engaging in prostitution or being victims of other forms of forced labour.
"Recently a multi-agency task force has conducted raids across Providenciales and the allegations of many women who have been kept isolated and sexually exploited throughout the island have been rescued,” the statement read.
"Sexual trafficking can also occur with debt bondage as women and girls are forced into prostitution to pay off an illegal debt incurred through their transportation from one country to another.”
According to the human rights body many women are told upon entering the host country, that this debt must be paid before they are freed and in most cases their identity documents are held by the traffickers.
"Sexual trafficking is more than a crime or migration issue, it is a fundamental human rights issue, and, in many respects, it is a manifestation of persistent gender inequality and a symptom of the subordinate status of women globally.
"Around the world most trafficked people are women and children, data provided by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime suggested that globally 70 percent of trafficked people were female (49 percent women and 21 percent girls).
Shockingly the same report identified that many of the traffickers were women and in some parts of the world women trafficking women was held to be the norm.
The commission has urged the relevant authorities to carry out comprehensive investigations into these allegations and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Harrowing effect 
When women and girl children are coerced, forced, or deceived into prostitution, that person is considered a victim of trafficking.  
The commission emphasised that trafficking has a harrowing effect on the mental, emotional and physical wellbeing victims ensnared in its web.
"Sex trafficking also promotes societal breakdown by removing women and girls from their families and communities.
"Trafficking fuels organised crime groups that usually participate in many other illegal activities, including drug and weapons trafficking and money laundering.”
Trafficking also adversely impacts local and national labour markets, due to the loss of human resources and burdens public health systems and erodes government authority, the statement said.
It is an established fact that human traffickers prey on people who are poor, isolated and weak as such a plethora of issues such as disempowerment, social exclusion and economic vulnerability marginalise people and make them particularly vulnerable to being trafficked.
Additionally, other contributing factors such as natural disasters, political turmoil and conflict wane already tenuous social protection measures.
"Individuals are vulnerable to being trafficked not only because of conditions in their countries but also by the allure of opportunity, the relentless demand for inexpensive goods and services and the expectation of reliable income drive people into potentially dangerous situations where they are at risk of being exploited,” the commission stated.
Combatting trafficking 
The Turks and Caicos Islands has been repeatedly accused of being a destination where men, women and children are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour.
The US State Department consecutively levelled allegations against the territory in its shocking annual human trafficking reports.
It also accused the former government of turning a blind eye to the issue.
The 2015, 2016 and 2017 trafficking reports maintained that the migrant population from Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica are vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labour, with stateless children and adolescents particularly at risk.
To combat trafficking the former government enacted the Trafficking in Persons Prevention Bill in February 2016.
This bill will see anyone who engages in human trafficking and exploiting foreign workers facing between ten years in jail to life imprisonment.
Anyone involved in recruitment, transporting, harbouring, receiving or obtaining for that purpose are committing a crime under the Trafficking in Persons Prevention Ordinance 2016.
Human trafficking indicators
The Human Rights Commission said that it is everyone’s responsibility to help stamp out this sinister crime.
"Everyone has the potential to identify a trafficked person.
"While victims may sometimes be kept behind locked doors in homes or brothels, they are often hidden right in front of us at, for example, construction sites, restaurants, elder care 
centres, nail salons, agricultural fields and hotels. 
"Traffickers’ use of coercion - such as threats of deportation and harm to the victim or their family members - is so powerful that even if you reach out to victims, they may be too fearful to accept your help.
"Knowing indicators of human trafficking will help you act on your gut feeling that something is wrong and report it.”