Rescued Venezuelan girls in ‘safe houses’

The 19 Span­ish-speak­ing girls who were res­cued by po­lice on Wednes­day dur­ing raids at a Chi­nese restau­rant in Wood­brook and homes in Diego Mar­tin and West­moor­ings have all been placed at an undis­closed lo­ca­tion rather than the Im­mi­gra­tion De­ten­tion Cen­tre (IDC) which lacks space.

Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Stu­art Young made the dis­clo­sure at yes­ter­day’s post-Cab­i­net me­dia brief­ing at the Diplo­mat­ic Cen­tre, St Ann’s.

“As a re­sult of what took place yes­ter­day, there has been a flood of in­for­ma­tion from all over the coun­try to the au­thor­i­ties with hu­man traf­fick­ing,” Young said, as he not­ed po­lice be­lieve they had cracked a ma­jor hu­man traf­fick­ing and sex slave op­er­a­tions dur­ing the ex­er­cis­es in east and west Trinidad.

Since the res­cue of the teen girls, whose ages range from 15 to 19, Young said the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice has been con­duct­ing on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions, while the Chil­dren’s Au­thor­i­ty and Im­mi­gra­tion Di­vi­sion had in­ter­vened.

“It was made more dif­fi­cult as these young girls can­not speak Eng­lish.

The first de­ter­mi­na­tion that needs to take place in this sit­u­a­tion is who are the vic­tims, who are the per­sons who might have been par­tic­i­pat­ing,” he said.

Young said there is al­so a “sus­pi­cion that some non-Trinida­di­ans, not re­fer­ring to the Chi­nese nec­es­sar­i­ly, were the per­sons lur­ing young girls from Venezuela.”

How­ev­er, he said not all the in­di­vid­u­als ar­rest­ed were vic­tims.

“What I can say is that the girls at this stage are be­ing treat­ed very hu­mane­ly. We are very con­cerned about it.”

Young said it ap­peared some of the girls en­tered our shores il­le­gal­ly.

“If you en­tered il­le­gal­ly cer­tain pro­ce­dures can take place with re­spect to mi­nors. We have spe­cial fa­cil­i­ties which would fall un­der the Chil­dren’s Leg­is­la­tion which was pro­claimed and im­ple­ment­ed. So mi­nors don’t go to the De­ten­tion Cen­tre.”

Young ad­mit­ted that when it comes to fe­male mi­nors, “un­for­tu­nate­ly we have less re­sources to house fe­males, in­clud­ing our lo­cal mi­nors and that is some­thing we are work­ing on.”

He said he was prepar­ing a draft pol­i­cy to take to Cab­i­net on the is­sue and in a few days he will meet with the Unit­ed Na­tions Com­mis­sion­er for Refugees (UN­HCR), Liv­ing Wa­ters and Im­mi­gra­tion Di­vi­sion to deal with the draft pol­i­cy.

On an­oth­er note, he said the law dic­tates and man­dates that at­tor­neys, re­al es­tate agents and jew­ellers have to reg­is­ter with the Fi­nan­cial In­tel­li­gence Unit.

If a re­al es­tate agent sus­pects that a prop­er­ty they rent is con­duct­ing sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­i­ties, he said they are ob­lig­at­ed to re­port it.

Mean­while, the po­lice yes­ter­day cau­tioned the pub­lic against cir­cu­lat­ing pho­tos of the mi­nors who were res­cued af­ter they sur­faced on so­cial me­dia. In sev­er­al of the pic­tures, the young ladies looked de­spon­dent and re­lieved.

In a re­lease, the TTPS re­mind­ed per­sons that Sec­tion 34(1) of the Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons Act Chap­ter 12:10 states, “To in any way cause the iden­ti­ty of a vic­tim of hu­man traf­fick­ing to be re­vealed, con­sti­tutes an of­fence.”

The TTPS al­so quot­ed laws un­der the Sex­u­al Of­fences Act and the Chil­dren’s Act that fur­ther em­pha­sised that shar­ing these pub­lic im­ages were un­law­ful.

They re­mind­ed mem­bers of the pub­lic, “that for pur­pos­es of the law, it mat­ters not from where the of­fend­ing ma­te­r­i­al orig­i­nates.” They en­cour­aged the pub­lic to no­ti­fy the au­thor­i­ties if they came in­to pos­ses­sion of such ma­te­r­i­al.

Deputy Car­los Valero, who is a mem­ber of the for­eign pol­i­cy com­mis­sion of the Venezuela Na­tion­al As­sem­bly, al­so yes­ter­day thanked the T&T Gov­ern­ment for res­cu­ing the girls. In a post to his Twit­ter page, Valero de­scribed it as one of the most se­ri­ous cas­es record­ed against Venezue­lan mi­grants in T&T.

Valero, who al­so shared the front pages of yes­ter­days lo­cal news­pa­pers, al­so thanked the Gov­ern­ment for guar­an­tee­ing the hu­man rights of ado­les­cents and al­low­ing them to com­mu­ni­cate with their fam­i­lies and lawyers.

Reporter: Shaliza Hassanali

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