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.