69 rescued from cages at Arouca church

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.

“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.

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.