Angie Ramnarine, coordinator of the La Romaine Migrant Support group, takes care of a migrant woman and her children.

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Even as the T&T Police Service is reporting an increase in violence against migrants during the pandemic, stakeholders say there are many more abused migrants who are afraid to come forward because of repercussions from the State and their abusers.

Laurel Morris, of Protection Advocate for Survivors of Gender-Based Violence at the Living Waters Community, said between May 15, 2020, to present, there have been 335 migrants coming forward to report violence.

“Out of those 335, a total of 318 were women, including victims of human trafficking,” Morris said.

Saying the migrant population is often dehumanised, Morris said all victims of human trafficking are referred to the Counter-Trafficking Unit of the TTPS as long as they give consent.

However, she said the police should make provisions to ensure that those victims who come forward to report violence are not deported or penalised further.

“There are many women who are unable to reach out for help because with the lockdowns, those persons are now with their perpetrators and it is not a simple matter of being able to leave. In one of the cases we have been dealing with, it took months for her to find a window before she could leave,” Morris said.

She said this has been compounded by a shortage of shelters to accommodate migrants.

“Not many migrants have been able to access State-run shelters. The NGOs don’t have the capacity to help everyone. Overall resources are stretched thin,” she said.

She also called for more translators to be placed in police stations.

“Language is an issue. The TTPS has been bringing in translators and that has been an improvement but people are still afraid to come forward because of the lack of legal status,” Morris said.

Meanwhile, coordinator of the La Romaine Migrant Support group Angie Ramnarine says one of the main reasons why migrants are afraid to report violence is because they are illegal.

“Many migrants live in fear and are afraid to lose partners on whom they are economically dependent on so there is a great under-reporting of the crime,” she said.

She added, “Some of them are fearful of being deported or jailed as they are here illegally. The police should be doing more outreach programmes to assure them that if they come forward to report domestic violence and crime, they will not face sanctions.”

Meanwhile, senior legal officer at the Living Waters Community, Ganesh Rampersad, said the sensitisation programmes of the TTPS and UNHCR have been fruitful.

“We are seeing incremental empathy among the population. Police are trying to encourage them to make reports,” he said.

He said there was a need for more interpreters so the police could take swift statements.

“We want to see more officers being trained for GBV. There has been an improvement in that the TTPS App is now in Spanish and that is one of the reasons why migrants are reporting much more,” Rampersad said.

However, he said there has to be a formalised referral pathway between the GVB in TTPS and other non-governmental organisations.

On Thursday, Superintendent in the Gender-Based Violence Unit (GBVU) Claire Guy-Alleyne noted an increase in the number of gender-based violence reports involving non-nationals.

She said there have been interventions for non-nationals, especially regarding human trafficking cases.

Report migrant crimes now

If you or anyone you know is experiencing intimate partner, sexual, emotional or any other type of gender-based violence, please call the nearest police station, 999 or the Living Water Community at +1 868-235-5510.