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News - Human Trafficking in Barbados
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Labour News.

Human Trafficking in Barbados

By Anne Rueckschloss, Bureau of Gender Affairs,
Ministry of Family, Youth Affairs, Sports and Environment
(Excerpt from the Newsletter of the Bureau of Gender Affairs, “Mainstreaming: 30th Anniversary Edition, Vol.1 Series 1”)

“Though you can’t see their chains, many people throughout the Caribbean are bought, sold, trapped, tricked, lurked and imprisoned every year by “human traffickers” – the modern day slave traders.”

Human trafficking involves the recruitment, movement, or harbouring of a person by means of deception, coercion, and/or force in order to exploit that person through sexual exploitation, forced labour, servitude, slavery and/or slavery-like conditions. It is therefore the modern form of slavery and it is the most compelling human rights challenge of our time. This is even more so because it is a rapidly expanding global phenomenon which experts link with international organised crime networks. It is in fact the third most profitable illegal industry next to arms and narcotics trade totalling some US$8 billion. A lack of judicial expertise and international framework makes cooperation on an international level difficult and therefore hundreds of thousands of women, men and children are trafficked illegally all over the world and hence thousands of families are affected every year.

The Caribbean is a vibrant and diverse region with dynamic migration flows and while the extent of human trafficking in Barbados is unclear, it is a destination, source, and transit country for migrants. Looking at the intra-Caribbean movement Barbados is attractive as a destination country because of the high quality of life compared to other Caribbean countries. A research project with key informants suggests that there is definite labour exploitation of migrants, especially in the construction and garment industries, exploitation of commercial sex workers involved in prostitution, exotic dancing, massages and domestic servitude. Human trafficking in certain areas is fostered by a desire for cheap labour by the private sector. This is a response to the relatively high labour costs in Barbados. In addition the tourism industry has fuelled the demand for the commercial sex industry as has local demand. But while the Barbados government has already signed international conventions and the Constitution prohibits forced, compulsory and bonded labour there is no legislation specifically addressing trafficking in persons. Moreover the media, until now, has not generally considered human trafficking as an issue relevant to Barbados and therefore it is not a focus of public discussion.

Looking at the social demography of trafficking it shows that women are more susceptible, but with a construction boom taking place in Barbados in recent years, there has been an increase of male vulnerability. Victims are likely to be of varying ages and have generally basic schooling with some technical training. It is believed that most of the persons entering Barbados using forged passports are from within Caricom. The recruitment process is similar for both female and male victims of trafficking. Either ads in newspapers promise work in Barbados or family members, neighbours, or friends recruit persons. Once the people are transported, traffickers use different methods to control their victims, which include violence, fear, debt, confiscation, isolation, shame and distrust. Considering those methods of control and the resulting working and living conditions the overall situation of human trafficking victims is disastrous.

In conclusion, human trafficking – modern day slavery – is a challenge for society that has to be faced. To ensure that his phenomenon is kept under control in Barbados there is a greater need for awareness raising, research, international networking, specific policies and constant media coverage as well as making protection of the victims necessary and urgent.

Published: Thursday, 15th May, 2008


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