PORT-OF-SPAIN, TRINIDAD: Yesterday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Port of Spain Office, in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched the Heal, Empower, Rise – Counter Trafficking in Persons (HER CTIP) Project at The Brix, Autograph Collection, Cascade.
The US$950,000, two-year project (2022-2024) aims to strengthen the victim support environment in Trinidad and Tobago, in order to facilitate both timely and quality services to Victims of Trafficking (VoTs) in Trinidad and Tobago. Specifically, the project would support Trinidad and Tobago’s national (Government and NGOs) response to VoTs through the augmentation, enhancement as well as enrichment of protection and assistance services and systems to potential, presumed, and confirmed VoTs.
Attending the launch were the Honourable Ayanna Webster-Roy, Minister with responsibility for Gender and Child Affairs, and Senator the Honourable Donna Cox, Minister of Social Development and Family Services.
Minister Webster-Roy stated, “Today’s launch highlights the importance of gender-aligned initiatives as we recognise the rights of all and take a multifaceted approach to addressing female empowerment, child rights, and sexual protection.”
She noted that from 2013-2016, 61 per cent of human trafficking cases in Trinidad and Tobago involved sexual exploitation and this proportion increased to 80 per cent between 2017 and 2018.
“The Division continues to be one of the key gatekeepers responsible for human trafficking prevention through education and sensitisation, which has resulted in adherence to the National Plan of Action Against Trafficking in Persons 2021-2025. Under this National Plan, we are also responsible for the protection of survivors and witnesses through shelters and alternative care.”
Minister Cox said her Ministry is moving swiftly towards a service delivery model called the Social Transformation Empowerment Programme, commonly known as STEP-UP, which treats with empowering and helping its clients to achieve sustainable living and independence.
“This Heal, Empower, Rise – Counter Trafficking (in Persons) Project therefore resonates well the Ministry’s STEP-UP service delivery model and our mandate to provide a robust social protection system for the vulnerable,” she noted.
With over 25 years of experience in counter-trafficking, IOM works in collaboration with governments, international and non-governmental organizations, the private sector as well as human rights, peace and development actors on all aspects of counter-trafficking responses – prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership. Since the mid-1990s, IOM and its partners have provided protection and assistance to over 100,000 men, women and children globally, including those at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse and those who were trafficked.
Head of Office for IOM Port of Spain, Ms. Jewel Ali, said, “Trafficking in Persons is a crime and grave human rights violation of enormous scale, which is prevalent in peace, conflict and disaster areas. In Trinidad and Tobago, IOM collaborates with Ministries across the Government and most significantly in the past with the Ministry of National Security to develop the Trafficking in Persons (TiP) Act which also led to the establishment of the Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU). Today IOM’s strong relationship with the CTU has led to among other things, the referral of potential cases for investigation and the support of victims.”
The project represents a strategic partnership between IOM Trinidad and Tobago and donor USAID, ‘the world’s premier international development agency’.
Clinton D. White, USAID Eastern and Southern Caribbean Regional Representative, noted in his remarks that at USAID, “we take human trafficking very seriously.”
He reported at a programming level, USAID has provided over USD 340 million in assistance to 83 countries and regions to fight human trafficking.
“We believe that a critical ingredient for a stronger response and greater effectiveness is through partnership."
The HER CTIP Project is seamlessly aligned to USAID’s Policy on Countering Trafficking in Persons which promotes a victim-centered approach and will specifically focus on young girls and women who are victims of trafficking. This Project seeks to assist with fulfilling some of the recommendations of the U.S. TIP 2021 report for Trinidad and Tobago, which underscored the need to “improve the quality of victim care” and “increase trauma-informed training on trafficking for NGO, shelter, social services.”
U.S. Embassy in Port of Spain Chargé d’Affaires, Shante Moore, noted, “Criminals in Caribbean countries target the most marginalized and source, move and sell the most vulnerable members of our society including young women and children.”
He reported the United States Government through USAID has committed over USD 14 million to counter-trafficking efforts in the Caribbean.
“While working jointly to dismantle human trafficking rings and prosecuting the guilty to the fullest extent of the law, we must ensure that victims and survivors are protected and receive the highest level of care, counselling and support."
The HER CTIP Project is designed as a multi-stakeholder initiative with the main goal of leading victims of trafficking to their healing and empowerment and propelling them to live meaningful and productive lives.
For additional information, please contact the Reporting and Communications Officer at IOM Port-of-Spain, Ms. Kandy Serrant, at firstname.lastname@example.org.