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.