NASSAU, The Bahamas – Personnel in law enforcement and related areas completed a two-day training seminar on how to fight the threat of human trafficking to and from The Bahamas and the region. Coordinated by the Organisation of American States, the seminar on ‘Strengthening Capacity of Law Enforcement Officials, Judges and Prosecutors in the Caribbean to identify and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children’, was held at SuperClub Breezes on February 15 – 16, 2011.
Minister of National Security the Hon. Tommy Turnquest in his Keynote Address said that such seminars set the tone for the extraordinary cooperation between regional and international governments in what has been recognised as the fastest growing transnational criminal activity in the world. Participants were members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Immigration and Customs department, the Office of the Attorney General and related agencies.
The seminar provided a forum for strengthening the capacity of law enforcement officials and prosecutors in identifying and combating trafficking in persons, especially women and children. The government implemented the Trafficking in Persons Prevention and Suppression Act in December 2008, which makes all forms of trafficking of human beings illegal.
Penalties range from three years to life imprisonment. “The government is committed to preventing, detecting and successfully prosecuting this evil perpetrated on unsuspecting women and children while in The Bahamas,” he said. Because The Bahamas is an archipelago of islands scattered over 100,000 square miles of water, he said policing its borders is a daunting task.
Human Trafficking is defined by Article 3 (a) of the United Nations Protocol as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation”.
Although trafficking has existed for centuries, it is said that the effects of globalisation have contributed to an environment in which it makes human trafficking a highly profitable and generally low risk criminal business. “While there is little evidence of the same here, regrettably there exists the potential of the participation of The Bahamas,” Mr. Turnquest said.
Research has shown that human traffickers rarely use direct force and abduction; most traffickers use subtle means of force and deception. However, the situation becomes more complicated when victims themselves become recruiters in trying to save themselves from further exploitation.
“While trafficking of men, women and children for forced labour and prostitution may not be an issue in The Bahamas presently, The Bahamas takes the issue of human trafficking very seriously by having implemented strategies to effectively address this scourge on humanity,” Mr. Turnquest said.
Research also suggests that The Bahamas’ borders make it an ideal target for the facilitation of human trafficking. “However, for the most part, persons who find themselves in The Bahamas illegally come voluntarily for mostly economic purposes,” Mr. Turnquest said.
Meanwhile, The Bahamas encourages trafficked victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of persons culpable of trafficking. The seminar was also addressed by Senator the Hon. John Delaney, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs; Mrs. Juliet Mallet Phillip, OAS Representative in The Bahamas; and Fernando Garcia-Robles, Anti-TIP Coordinator, OAS. Presenters from the region and the UK were: Ana Rodriquez, Peter Bryant, Guillermo Galarza, Olga Gutierrez, Franklyn Williams, and Floy Turner.
By Lindsay Thompson
Bahamas Information Services