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Compol Williams Says the BPD Is Cracking Down on Human Trafficking

For the past eighteen months, the world’s focus has largely been COVID-19 and the global economic recovery from pandemic which continues to plague countries. Sadly, trafficking of persons – also known as modern-day slavery – is still happening in the shadows. It’s something that Belize has been trying to counter. Today, Police Commissioner Chester Williams announced a bolstering of the ATIPS Unit tasked to investigate and prosecute cases of suspected human trafficking.

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “The ATIPS unit is another important part of what we do. As we’d know that human trafficking is a big thing and the task that the ATIP unit has is a tremendous one and I must commend them for the good work that they have done and continue to do. Most recently I think just about two weeks ago we were able to secure a conviction for a case in Dangriga and that speaks testimony to the fact that the human trafficking unit is doing what they can to stem this problem. But while we celebrate one conviction there is still much more that needs to be done. When the assessment was done this year we remained at tier two , thankful we did not go up to tier three. With this vehicle now gifted to the unit they will be poised to do better. They’ll be poised to be able to go out and seek persons who engage in these activities. They’ll be able to go and investigate properly, finding evidence against perpetrators and at the end to ensure that the prosecutors have what they requires to secure a conviction. And so again we’re tremendously grateful for the gift to ATIPS and may I announce here that just yesterday approved three additional persons for the ATIPS unit. So we’re now expanding the unit to be able to ensure that we meet our mandate.”

As Belize struggles with the human trafficking issue, advocates and international organizations continue to lobby for increased awareness and understanding with an aim to have stronger policies implemented. Belize’s Director for the International Office of Migration, Diana Locke, told our newsroom that this call has to be loud enough because human trafficking affects Belizeans as well.

Diana Locke, Director, IOM Belize: “It just doesn’t only happen in Belize City it happens everywhere. We had a case most recently something happening in Placencia. How do you pick these things up when they’re happening in private homes ? How do you pick them up if they’re an employee working in a shop and trafficking is not only foreign nationals, trafficking can be with Belizean nationals. So I might be misled, I might be hiring in a particular environment and I might be overworked and underpaid, taken advantage of, my social security is not being paid, I don’t have the freedom to do certain things that I need to do as I carry out my duties on the job but there are lots of information that is there that needs to be communicated on a regular basis not this year then you don’t hear from anybody again for another two or three years but it has to constantly be in the public’s eyes that they can be aware that this is happening and it just doesn’t only happen to foreigners it happens to locals too.”

In March last year, Belize secured its second conviction for violations of the Trafficking in Persons Act, when a jury found Rosa Anita Garcia Juan guilty of two counts of human trafficking, the first conviction since 2016.