Trinidad and Tobago national among TIP Heroes 2014

TIP Hero 2014 Charmaine Ghandi-Andrew
TIP Hero 2014 Charmaine Ghandi-Andrew

Port of Spain June 20, 2014:Director of the Trinidad and Tobago Counter-Trafficking Unit Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews has been named one of the 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report Heroes by the U.S. Department of State.

The announcement was made earlier today in Washington, D.C. by Secretary of State John Kerry as he released the 2014 TIP Report.   Ms. Ghandi-Andrews was present to receive the accolade from Secretary Kerry and delivered remarks on behalf of the other TIP heroes.  In her remarks, she reaffirmed her commitment saying:  “Our work has only just begun, but we are committed to the fight against human trafficking and will continue to work with the tenacity with which we started to end human trafficking in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Each year, the Department of State honors individuals around the world who have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking.   These individuals are NGO workers, lawmakers, police officers, and concerned citizens who are committed to ending modern slavery.  They are recognized for their tireless efforts – despite resistance, opposition, and threats to their lives – to protect victims, punish offenders, and raise awareness of ongoing criminal practices in their countries and abroad.

As the first-ever Director of Trinidad and Tobago’s Counter-Trafficking Unit at the Ministry of National Security, Charmaine Gandhi-Andrews fundamentally changed the way the government responds to the problem of human trafficking.  Ms. Gandhi-Andrews was for several years a leading and outspoken advocate for human trafficking legislation, which the government ultimately implemented in January 2013.  Largely due to her tireless efforts, Trinidad and Tobago now has an infrastructure in place to recognize, identify, and support victims.   In the first year she led over 20 investigations into suspected trafficking cases, resulting in charges filed against 12 alleged traffickers – including government officials – and uncovered a dangerous network of criminal gangs facilitating human trafficking in the Caribbean region.

In 2013, the Counter-Trafficking Unit hosted over 20 presentations and workshops, designed to educate law enforcement, non-governmental organizations, the legal community, and students about human trafficking.  This outreach broke down barriers that previously hindered victim care, by connecting and sensitizing resource providers private funders, who have since opened their doors and wallets to support trafficking victims.  In a short few years, Ms. Gandhi-Andrews, now the Deputy Chief Immigration Officer, has become the public face of anti-trafficking efforts in Trinidad and Tobago, shifting the national dialogue so that it now embraces proactive efforts to combat trafficking in persons.

As a result of these efforts, Trinidad and Tobago was upgraded from the Watch List of the Report to a Tier 2 ranking.  The Report points out that “the Government of Trinidad and Tobago does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, however, it is making significant efforts to do so.”

Among the recommendations for Trinidad and Tobago are to:  “Prosecute cases investigated under the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Act and convict and sentence trafficking offenders, including government officials complicit in human trafficking; devote adequate resources to the anti-trafficking unit to carry out its mandate in the investigation of trafficking crimes and the identification and protection of victims; develop a national action plan to address law enforcement efforts, victim care, and interagency coordination related to human trafficking crimes.”

The 2014 TIP Report is available at http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/