The smuggling of human cargo has higher profits and lower risks than smuggling drugs.
That is the view of criminologist Daurius Figueira. He said human smugglers and traffickers can make as much as US$100,000 on one illegal migrant to transport him to the US.
Speaking in an interview on Thursday, Figueira said, "Just as the Mexican cartels are now dominating the drug trade in the Caribbean, they have now introduced a new dimension to human smuggling in the Caribbean by 'coyotes' or human smugglers. T&T is a major transshipment point.
"The majority of people entering the Caribbean are moving to enter US territory.
"They are more valuable than carrying drugs, you make more money per head.
"It depends on what package they buy ranging from US$35,000, $50,000 to the US$100,000 'premium.'
"If you go for anything cheaper than that it means you will end up getting abused."
He said if the smuggled person had the wherewithal, coupled with the complicity of immigration officials, for the US$100,000 premium package he could get a new identity, T&T passport, legitimate documents and a plane ticket to the US.
Figueira said for US35,000 to $50,000, a coyote would facilitate the transport of an illegal migrant who wanted to go to the US from T&T to Belize, to Mexico and over land to the US border.
He said another popular destination was Canada–the coyote would move his human cargo across the US border, into Chicago, along the Great Lakes area and across into Canada.
Figueira said Haitians were the largest group of illegal immigrants heading to the US via the Dominican Republic/Puerto Rico route, followed by Indian nationals.
He said Syrian refugees escaping the war in their country flew to Antigua, the US Virgin Islands, then to the US.
Figueira said the majority of people being smuggled were coming from Asia and was big business: Chinese, Indian nationals, Nepalese, Filipinos and there was a code of silence. No one spoke if they were caught by authorities.
He said agencies such as the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement made the distinction between human smuggling and human trafficking.
Human smuggling involves a person voluntarily wanting to get smuggled across international borders and paying a smuggler or coyote to facilitate this.
Human trafficking was the transportation of people with the intent of selling or exploiting them in prostitution and forced labour.
Figueira said the two forms of smuggling were intermixed as coyotes often exploited the people they transported, reneging on their original agreement and extorting more money from them.
He said that it was unknown which country had the most people coming to T&T. Official figures in the possession of the authorities were only of people who passed through immigration and overstayed.
Figueira said illegal immigrants didn't necessarily clear immigration, since T&T's coast line was porous.
He said the majority of them were economic migrants and some people fled their homeland because of war, like the Syrians.
Figueira said many of the migrants didn't want to live in the Caribbean or Latin America, and their final destination was the US and Canada.
He said when they landed in T&T transport was waiting to whisk them away to nondescript safe houses prior to shipping them out.
Figueira said immigration was the agency issuing documentation. He, however, said, the illegal migrants didn't want work permits. Figueira said they placed no strain on the economy to maintain them, they paid an advanced fee to the coyotes for transport and food and doctors were even provided for them when they got sick.
Figueira said one of the most lucrative types of human trafficking was the smuggling of children for the sex trade where they were bought and sold over to paedophiles.
Figueira said smuggled children were considered extremely valuable and were usually accompanied by an adult, either a family member or guardian and travelled by air.
US State Department report on human trafficking
In the US State Department's July 27, 2015, 15th annual report on human trafficking, T&T along with nine other countries in the region, including Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname, were on the Tier 2 Watch List.
Unless those countries make progress, they could receive a Tier 3 ranking in 2016.
A Tier 3 ranking is for countries that do not cooperate in the fight against human trafficking and become liable to US foreign assistance sanctions.
Griffith on illegal immigrants in 2014
Former National Security minister Gary Griffith said there were 110,012 illegal immigrants in T&T in 2014.
The highest number of illegal immigrants came from Guyana–25,884, followed by Jamaica–19,500, Venezuela–10,574, St Vincent–9,606, Barbados–7,169, Grenada–6,947, Colombia–6,388, China–4,593, Philippines–4,437, St Lucia–4,391, India–3,651, Dominican Republic–2,256, Suriname–1,944, Cuba–1,434 Nigeria–1,071 and Bangladesh–167.