The ongoing development of the country’s tourism product may see the demand for various new services.
And the probability that some visitors might call for such services gives rise to the risk of instances of human trafficking.
It follows therefore, that the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit (ATIPU) would want to ensure that the media understands its role in identifying the problem and educating the public.
Towards this end, the Unit hosted a one-day seminar on Human Trafficking, on April 11.
The seminar was part of a series of activities to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the ATIPU.
Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Junior Simmons, who heads the ATIPU, explained that the training seminar was geared towards raising awareness on the issue of human trafficking, the smuggling of migrants and sexual offences.
“The media is a critical partner in the fight against crime, therefore it is important that persons in this profession are sufficiently knowledgeable on matters relating to crime,” ASP Simmons said.
Human trafficking, he continued, was a global phenomenon and a brutal crime that the world was grappling with, and SVG was very much a part of that global fight, the ATIPU head said.
“Human trafficking is organized crime – traffickers are well-organized in their intent to exploit the most vulnerable in our society and to profit excessively from their criminal networks and activities.
“It would therefore, take a better organized and strategic approach by all stakeholders including the media to stop the traffickers and bring them to justice,” he said.
Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Camillo Gonsalves, delivering the feature address, advanced, inter alia, that “human trafficking is a human rights issue, it is a crime issue, but it is very much a developmental issue.”
The inclusion of journalists was important, Gonsalves continued, because the fight against human trafficking was also a public relations and education battle.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines was not presently a hot spot for the scourge due to several factors, but it is becoming and will become a threat, Gonsalves cautioned.
During the event, five persons were recognized for their contribution to the establishment of the ATIPU: former Commissioner of Police, Keith Miller; former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Godfred Pompey; past head of the Gender Affairs Division Polly Oliver; Chief Labour Officer Susan Clarke; and Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Zonelle Wilkinson.
To date, the ATIPU has investigated over 40 cases. There has been one arrest but no convictions.
In October 2015, a local businessman was charged with three counts of human trafficking. He was freed on all counts.