A sting security operation in Trinidad and Tobago has led to a worrying discovery. Officers in the dual-island Caribbean nation on Wednesday rescued 69 people being held captive in what can be described as ‘modern-day slavery’.
Made of 65 men and four women and all nationals of Trinidad and Tobago were held captive in cages at a church along Trinidad and Tobago’s Eastern Main Road, Arouca. Others were in handcuffs.
The ghastly discovery has sparked fears of the resumption of modern slavery.
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“What we believe is that we have cracked what we believe is the biggest human trafficking ring in the country,” Trinidad and Tobago’s Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith told local newspaper, Guardian Media.
Some of the 69 people are believed to have been in captivity for years. “This is a much bigger picture and we have to investigate each and every case,” Griffith said. According to him, the discovery relates to virtual slavery. “It is such a bigger picture with profit being made of these …family members deliberately sending their loved ones here and extracting the profits from the families.”
In collaboration with the Special Operation Response Team (SORT), the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service uncovered the ghastly “modern slavery” dungeon at the Transformed Life Ministry Rehabilitation Center in Arouca, 19 kilometer east of the capital Port of Spain.
The sting operation coordinated by Griffith led to the rescue of the 69 held in nauseating conditions in cages.
The operation followed the issuance of search warrants to the police pursuant to the country’s Trafficking in Persons Act, after a period of monitoring and investigation.
Six people have been arrested at the church including the pastor. Some members of the church defended the act. They reject police claims that the church is engaging in human trafficking and modern slavery.
“It is not human trafficking,” they pushed back local newspaper Guardian Media. “It is a rehab so the pastor has the place gated to prevent them from running away.”
According to report, families of the inmates gave the green light for their incarceration and that they paid $5,000 or more for their loved ones to be harbored in the center.
National Security Minister Stuart Young described the discovery as disturbing. “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,” he stated.
Meanwhile, the detained pastor appearing before a Parliament Joint Select Committee (JSC) in June 2016 boasted of his over 25 years’ experience in working with socially displaced people in Trinidad and Tobago.
In that encounter, he stated that he rescued people on the streets and took them to his facility.
“I pick them up on the streets, bring them by me, bathe them, clean them. Some of them were wounded with maggots and worms and rejected by the hospital at times.
“So, I have a great experience working with them as time go along. I work with about 200 people under the Ministry of Social Development and my experience was not too nice,” he said.