Last update: 20-Dec-2013 2:48 pm
Friday, December 20, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Illegal Trinis working as slaves in Venezuela
There is evidence of undocumented citizens of this country working at ice-cream distribution factories in Venezuela for low wages, long hours and under slavery conditions. This was revealed by Venezuela's Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez as he responded to questions during a joint press conference with this country’s Minister of Justice Emmanuel George and National Security Minister Gary Griffith. The conference took place at the Ministry of Justice, Tower C, International Waterfront, Port of Spain.
Rodriguez said in Venezuela there were incidents where T&T citizens would arrive and work in ice-cream distributions companies without documents and under conditions of slavery. He said though his delegation did not have specific statistics, it was one of the issues soon to be addressed under new security arrangements made with this country.
Delegations from the two countries met yesterday to discuss collaborations on security operations on issues ranging from human and drug trafficking to border patrol and prisoner transfer issues. Both countries would work together on security issues, conduct operations and exercises jointly in an effort to decrease crimes between the nations. Both this country and Venezuela are transshipment points in the international drug trade.
Trinidad is also a destination for illegal immigrants from South America, with the majority being women coming from Colombia, through Venezuela. The agreements included sharing of intelligence between the borders, more immediate access to information to security issues and joint military and police operations. Rodriguez said in addition to this country’s citizens working and living illegally in Venezuela, his ministry had also identified Venezuelans who were being tricked into coming to this country and forced into prostitution.
“Venezuelan citizens have their passports taken away by the mafia after they come to Trinidad and are forced into staying and end up in jail as a result,” Rodriguez said. Griffith described a situation where Colombians were being “lured” to this country via Venezuela and held against their will under conditions similar to slavery. He said the joint agreements would ensure the reduction of human trafficking between the shores of the two countries.
Griffith believed that if human trafficking was curtailed, there would be a similar effect on drug trafficking. There is already an agreement for border security, between the T&T Coast Guard and the Guardia Nacional to curb the trafficking of illegal drugs and arms called Operation VenTri but Griffith said there had been a lull and it was time for the agreement to be reactivated. The delegations also discussed the protection of fishermen from both countries following reports of T&T fishermen being attacked by Venezuelans while fishing.
George said the meeting was in response to a mandate by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro when the two met at a Caricom meeting last July. “They had identified areas to rekindle a bilateral relationship which had slowed down between out countries,” George said. He said discussions surrounded border security and detention of nationals from both countries. The Venezuelan delegates could not provide a figure for the number of T&T nationals detained in that country.
Griffith said 13 Venezuelan nationals were being held in the maximum security prison for drug related offences. Another key issue discussed was the transfer of prisoners between both countries. Venezuela and this country do not currently have an agreement regarding transfer of prisoners since sentencing was different in both countries.
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