Government has a zero tolerance stance on human trafficking and it is being reflected in legislation which is currently being drafted.

That is the message from Minister of Family, Stephen Lashley, who said government was also seeking to create comprehensive national anti-trafficking strategies, including formalising the Barbados Coalition on Human Trafficking.

He made the comments today at the opening of a two-day workshop on human trafficking at Hilton Barbados for law enforcement personnel, including police investigators; immigration officers, prosecutors, judges and soldiers. The meeting is being sponsored by the Organization of American States (OAS), in association with the Bureau of Gender Affairs.????

Mr. Lashley told his audience that every country in the world was affected by trafficking, whether as a place of origin, transit or destination of victims. "Barbados has been identified as a country of transit or destination for victims; therefore, we need to be extremely vigilant in our response to this issue.

"We do not have any national laws that deal specifically with human trafficking, [but] we have signed on to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children," he stated.

Describing human trafficking as a crime against humanity and an infringement of basic human rights, Mr. Lashley suggested it was one of the main threats to human security. "The preservation of our human rights is, therefore, a top priority for our Government as we seek to ensure that each person’s right is protected," he stressed.

Mr. Lashley surmised that human trafficking would negatively impact our country socially and economically. He continued: "Poverty is both a cause and a consequence of human trafficking as the world’s poorest people – women and children – are amongst the most vulnerable of those persons who are victims.

??"… It is, therefore, imperative that we ensure that equal opportunities are created locally for our men and women, that they do not fall victim to this scourge or are lured through false promises. We must, therefore, continue to provide those safety nets to ensure that the individual’s basic needs are met on a daily basis."????

The Minister noted that several initiatives had been put in place to sensitise the public about human trafficking, and a trafficking in persons protocol policy and procedures manual had also been developed. He underscored, however, that in the wake of these efforts, there was no indication that the "incidence of trafficking is a common practice in Barbados".

OAS representative in Barbados, Francis McBarnette, said trafficking in persons "is utterly repugnant" and "violates all the peremptory norms and principles" that civilised societies treasure.

According to Mr. McBarnette, human trafficking had emerged as a global phenomenon which also affected the Caribbean and he suggested that a trans-national response should be crafted to deal with the issue.

He charged that this crime "is perpetrated by organised criminal networks who exploit, to great effect, the gaps in the international response to this phenomenon". The OAS official expressed the view that all countries must work together to ensure that law enforcement officials understand the complexities of human trafficking.

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