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Caribbean’s challenge in human trade

rhondathompson, [email protected]

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THE ANTIGUA and Barbuda Government has finally enacted legislation to give effect to a new initiative to combat trafficking in persons (TIP). It has been some years in coming – but better late than never.
Passage of the Trafficking in Persons Act 2010 in the Senate last Thursday occurred while the parliamentary opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) was continuing its boycott over a range of national issues, including a High Court judge’s ruling that affects three constituencies won by the governing United Progressive Party (UPP) in last year’s general election.
The government’s legislative action has come against the backdrop of growing national and regional concerns over human trafficking which, along with narco-trafficking and gun-running, is a challenge for various member states of CARICOM and the Dominican Republic.
At times the human trafficking challenge is expediently associated with moves by some administrations to deal with local problems involving illegal migrants. Among those affected are nationals of the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica and Haiti, and their treatment has resulted in claims of “discrimination” by the authorities.
TIP, however, has long been recognised as a serious anti-crime agenda driven by the United States of America under successive Washington administrations, in keeping with expressed concerns for their own as well as hemispheric security interests.
The Caribbean Community is yet to evolve a common policy in addressing the problems linked to trafficking in persons. This may well surface at the coming Montego Bay Summit of CARICOM Heads of Government when discussions take place on the “crime and security” agenda.
Human trafficking challenges had arisen as a topic for consideration and action at a conference on Organised Crime: A Threat To The Caribbean back in March 2007, organised by the Organisation of American States.
The hemispheric body’s Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin noted at the conference that the Caribbean region “is particularly vulnerable to organised crime due to its geographical location and porous borders”. But he also emphasised major contributing factors as poverty, economic disadvantages and unfair trading relations.
The June 2009 US State Department Trafficking In Persons Report was quite critical of the absence of legislation in Antigua and Barbuda to deal with this serious crime.
Now that the legislative foundation has been laid to address effectively this problem, it is to be hoped that better monitoring and implementing mechanisms will be established. At the same time, care must be taken to avoid violating the basic rights of individuals, including their right to access the courts.