While more and more Venezuelans are fleeing their homeland because of the economic and political crisis, many of those women are at risk for sexual exploitation. This was highlighted today by Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan as he delivered opening remarks at a workshop on Trafficking in Persons (TIP) held for judicial officers at the Georgetown Club.
The Minister told the gathering that for the period January to June this year, 132 alleged TIP victims have been recorded. All of the alleged victims are females with the vast majority being Venezuelans. According to Ramjattan 115 of the alleged victims were below the age of 30.
It was reported that for the first half of 2019, two individuals have been convicted on a combined eight charges – two for trafficking in persons, two for unlawfully withholding identification papers, which is another offence under the TIP Act, and the other four for related offences.
Minister Ramjattan disclosed that for last year, there were 245 alleged victims of TIP of which 11 were under the age of 18. The Minister revealed that 55 percent of the alleged victims were below the age of 26.
Meanwhile, in 2017, 14 cases of TIP were investigated. The investigations saw 50 alleged victims of which 21 of them were under 18 years of age. The year 2017 also saw three convictions, one each for Trafficking in Person, employing a child under 18 to work at a liquor store and conspiracy
On the other hand, 2016 saw 98 alleged victims of TIP of which 86 percent were females. That year, he said, the age group 12 to 18 was preyed upon. It was disclosed by the Minister that Region Four continues to be a hub for trafficking, while Regions One, Seven and Eight are not very far behind.
Ramjattan further stressed that most persons who are involved in the TIP are businessmen and the law enforcement are experiencing difficulty apprehending them because they have all sorts of links. That said, he revealed that only the small fish are charged and placed before the courts.
Also speaking at the seminar was Chancellor of the Judiciary Yonette Cummings-Edwards who gave an overview of the Combating the Trafficking in Persons Act of 2005. She pointed out that persons found guilty of TIP by a Magistrate are liable to imprisonment of three to five years and is required to pay restitution to the trafficked victim.
She added that in such cases at the High Court, persons are liable to five years or up to life imprisonment and is also required to pay restitution to the victim. The Chancellor said that at the level of both courts, the perpetrators can have their property forfeited. Other speakers at the event included Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack who spoke extensively of the challenges prosecuting TIP cases.
Today’s event was organized by Madam Justice Roxane George, Chief Justice (ag) in conjunction with the Judicial Education Institute- Guyana (JEI).