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Trinidad: 69 victims of ‘mod­ern day slav­ery’ rescued from cages in church

By Trinidad Guardian

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Some of the persons found in the cage (Guardian photos)

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – Six­ty-nine peo­ple rang­ing from the ages of 19 to 70 years have been found locked away in cages at a church lo­cat­ed along the East­ern Main Road in Arou­ca on Wednes­day morn­ing.

These peo­ple both men and women are be­lieved to be vic­tims of “mod­ern day slav­ery” and “hu­man traf­fick­ing” ac­cord­ing to Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice Gary Grif­fith who spoke to the Guardian Me­dia Lim­it­ed’s Lead In­ves­tiga­tive desk Mark Bas­sant ear­li­er on Wednes­day just out­side the Trans­formed Life Min­istry Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre.

“What we be­lieve is that we have cracked what we be­lieve is the biggest hu­man traf­fick­ing ring in the coun­try…some of them said they have been here for years…this is a much big­ger pic­ture and we have to in­ves­ti­gate each and every case…this re­lates to vir­tu­al slav­ery with what we have seen here. Some of them say they have been tor­tured. It is such a big­ger pic­ture with prof­it be­ing made out of this…fam­i­ly mem­bers de­lib­er­ate­ly send­ing their loved ones here and ex­tract­ing the prof­its from the fam­i­lies, ” Grif­fith said.

He de­scribed the scenes as “bar­bar­ic, ” “Per­sons are seen in cages, hand­cuffed…per­sons were be­ing tor­tured. We saw tasers and ba­tons…and again this is a sit­u­a­tion of vir­tu­al mod­ern day slav­ery.”

Dur­ing a a sting op­er­a­tion co­or­di­nat­ed by Grif­fith and ex­e­cut­ed by the Spe­cial Op­er­a­tion Re­sponse Team (SORT), the T&T Po­lice Ser­vice (TTPS) res­cued the 69 T&T cit­i­zens (65 men and 4 women). They were all held cap­tive, where most of them were in cages and some hand­cuffs.

The op­er­a­tion com­menced at about 12:15 am on Wednes­day, at the promi­nent church.

Ac­cord­ing to the TTPS search war­rants were is­sued pur­suant to Sec­tion 13 Chap. 12:10 of the Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons Act, af­ter a pe­ri­od of mon­i­tor­ing and in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Grif­fith, Deputy Com­mis­sion­er of Po­lice Op­er­a­tions (Ag.) Jayson Forde, the TTPS’s Vic­tim and Wit­ness Sup­port Unit, North­ern Di­vi­sion C.I.D. are al­so on the scene, as­sist­ed by a med­ical unit com­pris­ing of doc­tors, nurs­es and am­bu­lance at­ten­dants from the North Cen­tral Re­gion­al Health Au­thor­i­ty, who are al­so con­duct­ing ini­tial on-scene ex­am­i­na­tions of the res­cued na­tion­als.

Six peo­ple were ar­rest­ed at the church, in­clud­ing the Pas­tor.

In an im­me­di­ate de­fense of the church and it’s pas­tor, a com­mit­ted mem­ber claimed “lies.”

Speak­ing on strict anonymi­ty, she said it is a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion home for peo­ple who want to come out of drug ad­dic­tion.

“It is not hu­man traf­fick­ing. It is a re­hab so the pas­tor have the place gat­ed to pre­vent them from run­ning away. These peo­ple’s par­ents sign con­tracts and agree. They al­so view the places…So why would fam­i­lies put there love one there if they saw it? No­body there is in chains etc they are ly­ing. God hear me it is a lie, ” the church mem­ber said.

Guardian me­dia was told that fam­i­ly mem­bers pay from $5,000 and more for their loved ones to be in the cen­tre.

Grif­fith said he was told by se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers that re­ports were made about the or­gan­i­sa­tion a few months ago and added that it is al­leged that they were aware of false im­pris­on­ment. He added that he is ap­palled that they did not do a thor­ough search where they would have seen per­sons be­ing held in cages, some of them for years, “and then be­ing aware that they were in cages and noth­ing was be­ing done so this mat­ter has gone a bit fur­ther where it is ac­tu­al­ly ex­pand­ing in­to a pos­si­ble in­ves­ti­ga­tion tak­ing place with po­lice of­fi­cers.”

Min­is­ter of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty, Stu­art Young said he was con­tact­ed at about 2:30 am by Grif­fith and briefed on the on­go­ing po­lice op­er­a­tion tak­ing place, “where the TTPS had un­cov­ered ap­prox­i­mate­ly 70 per­sons be­ing held in very dis­turb­ing cir­cum­stances at what was be­ing de­scribed as a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre.”

Young said he was al­so in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the Min­is­ter of Health Ter­rence Deyals­ingh and the Di­rec­tor of the Counter Traf­fick­ing Unit of the Min­istry of Na­tion­al Se­cu­ri­ty, to en­sure that nec­es­sary sup­port was pro­vid­ed for an un­fold­ing sit­u­a­tion.

Young said he is shocked and dis­turbed on hear­ing the news, “From the pre­lim­i­nary in­for­ma­tion pro­vid­ed to me, I am shocked and dis­turbed at the cir­cum­stances un­der which hu­mans were be­ing held and I strong­ly con­demn same.”

“I re­mind per­sons that this is now an ac­tive and un­fold­ing po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion and I am cer­tain that facts sur­round­ing this dis­turb­ing mat­ter will be­gin to be un­cov­ered. Ac­cord­ing­ly, it is pru­dent for lit­tle more to be said at this time and the TTPS should be per­mit­ted to do their work, ” he added.

Young has thanked all those in­volved in the op­er­a­tion of find­ing and free­ing the vic­tims who he said may have been held against their will and sub­ject to in­hu­mane and de­grad­ing treat­ment.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions are con­tin­u­ing.

This article was posted in its entirety as received by This media house does not correct any spelling or grammatical error within press releases and commentaries. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of, its sponsors or advertisers.

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