BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Several Caribbean
countries have been named in a new report by Interpol released on Monday showing that hundreds of suspected victims of modern slavery were rescued in a major crackdown on human traffickers in 13 countries.
According to the global police organisation, the 350 possible victims of sexual exploitation and forced labour were discovered and 22 people arrested this month in an Interpol-led swoop in countries such as Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Jamaica, and Venezuela.
Interpol said men, women, and children were discovered working in nightclubs, farms, mines, factories and open-air markets, having been lured across borders by traffickers targeting desperate and vulnerable people with promises of a better life.
“What traffickers don’t advertise are the working conditions their victims will be subject to once their final destination is reached,” Cem Kolcu of Interpol said in a statement, adding that “during this operation, we identified women being forced to work out of spaces no bigger than coffins, for example”.
According to Interpol, in Guyana, young women were found selling sex next to remote gold mines from which they could not escape.
“Isolated locations allows offenders to avoid detection,” said Diana O’Brien, Guyana’s assistant director of public prosecutions, explaining that often, by the time they can act on intelligence, traffickers have moved their victims.
Interpol’s executive director of police services, Tim Morris, said in the case of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where Asians at a factory had been stripped of their passports and freedom, “to all intents and purposes, you enslave the person”.
The Interpol operation, the culmination of 30 months of preparation, allowed for social services and charities to conduct interviews and provided support to victims.