File photo: Gary Griffith
Former national security minister Gary Griffith has defended the efforts of the former People’s Partnership administration to address human trafficking when he was a member of the cabinet, accusing the Prime Minister of a “blame game” over a 2022 US report that alleged that senior government officials are involved in human trafficking.
The report said TT remained on its watch list as the government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking, but did note it was take steps to do so.
The National Transformation Alliance (NTA), which Griffith now leads, claimed TT got a favourable review when he was in government.
NTA, in a statement on Sunday, said Dr Rowley has attempted to deflect for the fact that after eight years in office “his administration has to take full responsibility for the US Trafficking in Persons 2022 Report which places Trinidad and Tobago on a Tier 2 Human Trafficking Watch List.”
This view comes a day after Griffith’s former cabinet colleague and UNC MP Devant Maharaj agreed with Rowley’s suggestion that Opposition members may be involved in human trafficking, since it could not have been Government MPs, the US report referred to.
NTA noted in 2014, that as national security minister Griffith “was able to improve our status from Tier 2 Human Trafficking Watch List to Tier 2 (the grading being from Tier 3 to Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 2 and then to Tier 1), with the 2014 US Trafficking in Persons Report commending Trinidad and Tobago for, ‘making significant efforts in the fight against human trafficking.'”
NTA said 2014 report acknowledged the success of the following:
* Establishment of the Child Protection Unit (CPU).
* Strengthening of the Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU) which spearheaded investigations and drafted standard operating procedures.
* Documentation of statements from most foreign victims prior to repatriation.
* Granting of temporary immigration relief to victims.
* Partnering with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) for the repatriation of identified victims.
* Funding of NGOs that provide care for victims.
* Investigation of twenty-two (22) cases of human trafficking.
* Identification of an increased number of victims (trafficked for forced labour and sexual exploitation) and referred said victims for care.
* Charges being laid against a number of suspected offenders for the first time under the TIP Act of 2011.
* Provision of multiple specialized anti-trafficking training sessions throughout the year.
* Drafting of a plan for National Awareness Campaign in partnership with NGOs.
* Re-igniting the Security Cooperation agreement between TNT, Venezuela and Colombia.
It described as “a sad state of affairs of politics in this country” that TT has been downgraded again to the Tier 2 watch list, stating that “in response, the politicians with the authority are spending more time trying to blame others, than to actually do their job.”
Noting there have been three ministers of national security in eight years, NTA advise Rowley to “stop the finger pointing, appoint competent persons, take a page out of Gary Griffith’s book if you must, but most of all, focus on getting the job done.”
The 2022 US report said government although government has increased investigations, prosecutions and made efforts to identify victims and expand training in anti-trafficking measures, it has never convicted any trafficker under the 2011 anti-trafficking laws.
It claimed, “Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action, and the government did not take action against senior government officials alleged in 2020 to be involved in human trafficking.”
In Parliament on Friday, the Prime Minister in response to opposition questions on the report said an investigation had been done and although allegations referred to MPs, none were from the Government.