This week, a Suriname-based trafficking ring was discovered which lured young people out of the country on the promise of being sent abroad to culinary school in Trinidad and Tobago. The youth who were caught up in this scheme were told by the traffickers that they had potential to become chefs. After the brief training program in Trinidad and Tobago, the traffickers promised to take their newly-trained students to the Netherlands and help them find work. But when the boat left Suriname, that’s where the promises ended and the slavery began.
In Suriname, the traffickers charged the families of the victims a fee, claiming the money would cover the cost of travel and of the training program. Once they got to Trinidad, however, the victims were held against their will and the traffickers seized their passports. In one small room, they were forced to sleep off the floor and even eat off it. The victims, who were both men and women, were also forced to engage in sexual acts. And as if this was not enough, the traffickers managed to add insult to injury by forcing the victims to call their parents in Suriname, tell them how great the program was so far, and ask them to send more money to cover additional expenses.
But parents are not so easily fooled. It was ultimately a few suspicious parents who brought down this trafficking ring. Several of them didn’t believe the false phone calls or hadn’t heard from their children, so they called the police. Surinamese police managed to track the traffickers to Trinidad, where they abandoned their victims and fled to Curacao. They were then extradited back to Suriname and are currently awaiting trial.
This story is an example of one common tool traffickers use to lure victims away from their homes and families: the promise of an education. Sometimes, the idea of education is vague, as in “work in my house in America and I’ll send you to school.” Other traffickers have created very convincing materials, credentials, and sometimes even fake websites for their “program” which doesn’t exist. For a young Surinamese student learning they have the potential to become a successful chef in Europe, that dream is a hard one to pass up. And it’s in this way that human traffickers prey upon vulnerabilities, like lack of economic opportunities, to find and exploit their victims.
Photo credit: ITHQ