Minister of National Security the Hon. Marvin H. Dames said The Bahamas’ participation in today’s “Dialogue on Human Trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean: Strong Institutions Respond to Trafficking in Persons” signified an understanding of the issues regarding human trafficking.
“We are fully cognizant that we are all inextricably bound to the region and hemisphere, considering the transnational nature of trafficking,” Minister Dames said during his presentation, December 3, 2020 in the international virtual conference, which had more than 180 participants, and was organized by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). “As a hemispheric partner, The Bahamas will continue to support platforms such as this, while strengthening our institutions and national anti-trafficking strategies,”
Present with Minister Dames as he made his contribution, at his Ministry’s University Drive Head Office were Marco Rolle, Permanent Secretary; Supt. Tess Newbold, Chair, Trafficking in Persons, The Bahamas; and Dr. Jennifer Bethel, Director of the Ministry’s Research & Development Unit.
Among the international participants and presenters taking part in the event were: Mauricio Claver- Carone, President, IDB; Ghada Waly, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); Lea Giménez, Division Chief, Innovation for Citizen Services, IDB; Claudio de Castro Panoeiro, National Secretary for Justice, Brazil; John Cotton Richmond, Ambassador-at-Large, Monitoring and Combating Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Department of State; Ilias Chatzis, Chief, Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Section, UNODC; Felix Santana Angeles, Technical Secretary of the Inter-ministerial Commission to Prevent, Punish and Eradicate Crimes Related to Trafficking in Persons, Mexico; Rosa Corea, Executive Secretary, Inter-institutional Commission to Combat Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons, Honduras; Camila Astraín Rubio, Head of the Organized Crime Department, Ministry of Interior and Public Security, Chile; Moderator Nathalie Alvarado, Coordinator, Citizen Security and Justice Group, Inter-American Development Bank; and Norma Pena, Sector Senior Specialist, IDB; Minister Dames said that The Bahamas continues to enhance its “four-pronged approach” to strengthen institutions and their initiatives on matters involving human trafficking.
That approach included contemporary legislation; training and awareness campaigns; victim protection and recovery services; and the successful prosecution and conviction of human traffickers. With reference to the first-pronged approach of contemporary legislation, Minister Dames pointed out that the Parliament of The Bahamas passed in 2008 The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention and Suppression) Act.
“The legislation was also amended in 2017 to encompass organized entities engaged in trafficking,” he said. “Understanding that human trafficking is complex with many nuances, the legislative component forms the basis for confronting the seriousness of the crime.
Minister Dames added: “To complement the same are several other frameworks which support our laws to address human trafficking. These include Guidelines for the Prevention, Suppression and Punishment of Trafficking in Persons; The Bahamas National Anti-Trafficking in Persons Strategy (2019- 2023); The Bahamas Trafficking in Persons Response: Standard Operating Procedures; and Guidelines to Provide Assistance to Victims of Trafficking in Persons and their Accompanying Children.”
Minister Dames noted that, individually and collectively, the legislation, guidelines and policies provide comprehensive and robust frameworks in the fight against trafficking in persons. “This intricate interplay of elements allows for broad views to address the varied ways in which individuals are exploited, yet specific enough to address the often convoluted processes of trafficking,” he said. The second pronged approach, training and awareness campaigns, is a critical component in ending human trafficking, Minister Dames said. The purpose of training is to increase awareness and educate persons on the indicators of human trafficking, he noted.
“The ultimate goal is to identify victims so that they can be rescued and begin healing, while bringing their perpetrators to justice,” Minister Dames added. He stated that since 2018 the Trafficking in Persons Secretariat in The Bahamas constituted the nucleus
through which all trafficking in persons’ initiatives inclusive of public awareness and training; the forging of national and international partnerships; care and protection of victims; and the investigation and prosecution of traffickers emanate.
“My Ministry also established a national hotline which operates 24-hours basis,” Minister Dames said.“Continuous collaboration and training platforms for law enforcement officials, medical personnel, educators, non-government organizations and those employed in the judicial sector are key.”
Recently, he said, The Bahamas participated in a virtual platform designed specifically for the judicial sector. These persons, he pointed out, served to advance the mandate on the eradication of trafficking; are better able to counter human trafficking; and propose legislation in alignment with international standards. Minister Dames said that the third-pronged approach, victim protection and recovery services, was important because The Bahamas remained fully committed to protecting and assisting all victims of trafficking, while being cognizant of their human rights.
“Working with both government and non-government agencies, through our Trafficking in Persons Task Force, we facilitate 1) referrals for housing and meals assistance; 2) physical and psychological assessments 3) transportation, 4) repatriation, if necessary; and 5) training and skills acquisition for employment,” Minister Dames noted.
“This individual protocol is activated with every victim and services are easily accessed,” he added. “We fully understand that the needs of all victims are different and we aim to facilitate individual care and support.” With reference to the fourth prong, the successful prosecution and conviction of human traffickers, Minister Dames said that the Government of The Bahamas continues to aggressively pursue such individuals and their networks.
“I will admit that much work remains in this component and we have committed to strengthening our institutions and the people within inclusive of law enforcement, judicial, health-care and social services personnel,” he said.
“This means that all parties will be knowledgeable and have the capacity to respond, accordingly.” To undergird all of the aforementioned prongs, Minister Dames said, the Government of The Bahamas had made trafficking in persons a priority by adding it as a safety concern in the Office of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit.
“This means that the nuances surrounding trafficking are a top priority at the highest level of Government.” “Additionally, consultative leadership and partnership with critical Ministries such as Education, Health, and Transportation, are facilitated for effective networking, the sharing of best practices, and strengthened capacity within their prescribed focused areas to improve outcomes for the victims of trafficking,” Minister Dames said.