This week the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Council put on a series of awareness trainings for members of the Tourism sector here on the Placencia Peninsula. Stakeholders from hotels and resorts, restaurants and tour guides were invited to attend one-day seminars on Human Trafficking.
I have a background in Human Services. I spent 5 1/2 years working direct care at a crisis center in Atlantic City, NJ. Sadly, I have quite a bit of knowledge on the despicable crime of human trafficking. ** But I RSVP’ed to attend this week’s workshop because I was curious as to the services available in Belize. Was it strictly NGOs? Is there tough legislation and anti-trafficking laws already in place? How prevalent of a problem is this in Belize?
As I mentioned above the training was organized by the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Council (A-TIPS) which is a partnership of a lot of different agencies: the Ministry of Human Development, the International Organization for Migration, Families and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs. Basically, in Belize as elsewhere in the world, human trafficking is a mostly invisible crime that is under-recognized, under-reported, and under-prosecuted. I was a bit surprised by the relative newness of the laws and the very low number of tried and convicted cases of human trafficking in the last decade or so; not only in Belize but in Central America as a whole. We know the exploitation of men, women and children exists here- it exists everywhere. Labor exploitation, the sex trade, we know victims could be right here in our own communities. They may not even recognize themselves as victims so it’s very encouraging that A-TIPS is offering stakeholder education events to shed light on human rights violations because it’s everyone’s job to help stop this.
I hope we have more opportunities like this to encourage community activism, to educate on identification and prevention of crimes against a person. Belize has an anonymous crime reports App you can download called P3TIPS which I love because if you are intimidated by local law enforcement or what to remain strictly anonymous you can make a report through this app then delete it if you want.
*(sidenote: while case work wasn’t a sustainable career choice for me, most people burn out on crisis care within a few years, I am so grateful for my experiences at Covenant House. It was a trial-by-fire, learn on the job, enriching, insane, and tumorous adventure that I wouldn’t trade. Though it left me emotionally devastated at the end, with time and distance I’ve come to enormously appreciate everything I was able to learn and the medley of circumstances we encountered. I’d recommend to anyone: spend some years working for a non-profit, you’ll never find a better opportunity to wear so many different hats!)