The police have taken statements from the two women ‒ one a Trinidadian ‒ who were rescued by the Guyana Women Miners Organisation (GWMO) and the Ministry of Human Services & Social Security last Friday evening from 14 Miles in Region 7 where they were being forced to remain by a shop owner until they paid off increasing debts.
GWMO President Simona Broomes has also given a statement to the police.
Broomes had expressed concern on Sunday that statements had not been taken earlier, pointing out that shop owner could have left the area and the police would be hard pressed to find her.
This same shop owner had been implicated in a case back in July when another shop owner, Ann Marie Carter, was charged but the police never arrested her even though two victims who had been removed from her shop had given statements.
And both Broomes and the victims told of seeing the woman’s husband in Linden when they arrived there last Friday evening.
“He was there in a heavily tinted vehicle peeping at us,” one of the victims said while revealing that she was scared.
The man, who is said to be a member of the disciplined forces, was observed by the victims watching them through the glass of a fast food restaurant in Linden where they had stopped to get something to eat. He later entered the heavily tinted vehicle but it is not clear if there were other persons inside.
Broomes said the women aged 30 and 35 are not babies and would become frustrated very quickly. She said the authorities need to re-examine the issue of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and look at the messages they are sending to persons such as the shop owner, as many people believe that because the victims are adults and they went of their own free will they were not being trafficked.
Meantime, according to the Guyanese woman she decided to go into the interior to work at the woman’s Kayamoo ‒ barrack-like accommodation for sex workers ‒ because she was experiencing some serious financial problems. The mother of one said that she had briefly interacted with the shop owner some years ago and she had her number and in desperation she called.
While she changed her mind on two occasions after contacting the shop owner the woman said she finally decided to go after receiving $25,000 from the woman as a loan which she was expected to work and repay.
“She tell me how she place clean and there would be no problem and anybody who work with her get them money and no problem at all,” the victim said.
However, she said she realized something was wrong when she arrived and was told that in addition to re-paying the money she had been lent, she also had to re-pay the transportation cost to 14 Miles.
“And to be honest I did hear she talk something about $3,000 when we went in the city, but I didn’t pay she no mind so I didn’t know I had to pay $3,000 a day to stay in the Kayamoo. I never thought you had to pay to live in the interior,” the woman said.
She said with that sum they were given one meal a day, which was provided in the afternoon and while she got a late night snack the Trinidadian woman was not given that.
“And we not making any money; as fast as you get money you have to pay her,” the woman said. This was in addition to buying breakfast for $1,500 and drinking water which was being sold for $500 for a small bottle.
According to the woman after they discovered they were not making any money it was she who approached the woman and begged her to let them leave their belongings and go to another area to try and make some money after which they would repay her and then be able to leave the backdam. She decided to do this after the woman stopped giving them the one meal a day and instead started charging them $2,000 a day.
“But she tell me nobody not leaving until we pay she her money…”
According to the victim she had made three $10,000 payments to the woman and one night she had a business arrangement set up by the woman, but no money was paid to her. The shop owner later indicated that she had been paid $20,000.
After they were doing no business and the one meal a day was cut out the victim said she was forced to pawn her computer so that they could secure food and toiletries from another shop owner.
“If I didn’t do that we woulda been worse off,” she said.
Broomes said she had to pay $40,000 to the woman the computer was pawned to ensure that the item was returned to the victim. She said she did this after she ensured that food and water and other necessities were given to the women.
“I am not saying we did not have money for this woman, we had, but we were not doing any business and she did not want us to leave and make money. Is not like she was tying us down or locking us in a room but if we go to bathe, she had a man coming and watching us, as soon as we open we door in the morning she had a girl watching us,” the victim told this newspaper.
She said it appeared as if they would have to spend an eternity on the woman’s premises if they were not rescued as there was no way they would be able to pay their mounting debt. The shop owner was more interested in them entertaining in her shop by dancing while men were drinking alcoholic beverages, and at the end of the night her bar would be sold out.
“But we got nothing out of that, the men happy to just sit down and watch we dance and then buy drinks and leave…”
She said while the Trinidadian would like return to her country she has to remain here and she is scared for her life as the shop owner did tell her that she would find her in the city.
“I am scared for my life… I don’t understand why as a woman she must treat other women like that, she just want to get rich off of us and it is not fair. She know we were desperate…”
And Broomes said she was committed to working with all stakeholders adding that she has plans to write to Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee to seek an audience with him because she feels if they can clearly indicate to him what their mandate is then they can collaborate and work together with greater police involvement.
“I think if everyone have a clear picture about what is happening then we can all work together to fight this thing…” Broomes said.
She said the GWMO will not withhold information pointing out that whenever they get a call they contact the Ministry of Human Services and the police.
And while the organisation has collaborated with the Human Services Ministry before, Broomes said this last collaboration was very commendable.
What is trafficking in persons?
According to the US definition, ‘trafficking in persons’ and ‘human trafficking’ have been used as umbrella terms for the act of recruiting, harbouring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labour or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 (Pub. L. 106-386), as amended, and the Palermo Protocol describe this compelled service using a number of different terms, including involuntary servitude, slavery or practices similar to slavery, debt bondage, and forced labour.
Human trafficking can include but does not require movement. People may be considered trafficking victims regardless of whether they were born into a state of servitude, were transported to the exploitative situation, previously consented to work for a trafficker, or participated in a crime as a direct result of being trafficked. At the heart of this phenomenon is the traffickers’ goal of exploiting and enslaving their victims and the myriad coercive and deceptive practices they use to do so.