(BBC) – Nearly 350 victims of human trafficking have been rescued by police in 13 Caribbean and Latin American countries.
Tim Morris, Interpol’s executive director of police services, told the BBC bosses at a factory in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines stripped Asian trafficking victims of their passports and forced them into total dependence.
He said victims were stripped of their money and means of transport were taken away from them.
“To all intents and purposes, you enslave the person,” Mr Morris said.
Mr Morris explained that this often hard to prosecute the perpetrators. “Some people don’t acknowledge they are being exploited,” he said, so they can continue to earn cash or stay in their new country.
Others still are intimidated into lying to investigators, complicating prosecution further.
NGOs and social services were on hand to give support to the rescued and to ask them about their experiences to further the investigation.
“We don’t just leave them be,” Mr Morris said. “[Victims] get the proper social support they need.”
Local authorities will decide whether to care for trafficking victims in dedicated facilities, release them or send them home.
“It all depends on the particular person’s circumstances,” Mr Morris said. “And often on the country’s resources.”
The Interpol-coordinated Operation Libertad saved men, women and children trafficked abroad and forced into work.
Police throughout the Caribbean were involved, including on the Dutch islands of Aruba and Curacao and the UK’s Turks and Caicos Islands, as well as in Brazil and Venezuela.
Operations were directed from Barbados and supported by Interpol command centres in Lyon, France and Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires.
Officers arrested 22 people and seized cash, mobile phones and computers.
The co-ordinated raids were the result of a two-and-a-half year project funded by the Canadian government, which also trained specialist officers for the team.