Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves is warning Vincentians that offers of babysitting jobs in England could put them at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking.
He further warned that travelling to England to take up these offers could hurt the individual as well as St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Speaking on state ratio today (Wednesday), the prime minister said he has asked Commissioner of Police Colin John and the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit of the constabulary to “get involved” in addressing the issue.
“It has come to my attention that some persons — it hasn’t become a flood yet — but it may become if we don’t put a stop to it and it deals with some persons who are holding out promises to young ladies to go to England to be babysitters,” said Gonsalves, who is also minister of national security.
He said that some of these women go to the Office of the Prime Minister seeking help in getting to England.
“And our office is telling them very simply, … because you are a Vincentian, you can get to go there (England) without a visa and stay up to six months, provided that you have somewhere where you are staying and all the rest of it.
“But you can’t go to England to go work unless you have a work permit.”
He said that some people who travel to England in these circumstances work illegally as babysitters at below minimum wage
“… then they get abused in one way or the other, things are difficult, they don’t have anybody — friends or family — up there to help them, they may overstay, they get deported, they get locked up, or sometimes they get pushed into things which are worse.
“Look, these promises which are held by some individuals who do not have your interest at heart. And I know the Labour Department has given out information on these things already,” the prime minister said.
He said that some countries have lost the privilege of their passport holders travelling visa-free to England.
“… because either the persons who going involved in some criminality or there are persons who abuse this particular privilege of going without a visa.
“Now, as I say, I am openly alerting people, especially the young woman — some young men, too, but mainly young women, overwhelmingly — to this particular problem. And some persons are anxious just as they leave and they don’t think it through,” Gonsalves said.
“And if you hear about it and I hear about it, other people hearing about it, we can’t just remain silent on it, we have to talk about it, to advise people not to do this, you’re harming yourself and you’re harming the country.
“Please, listen to me. All I can do in these circumstances is to give sensible advice here,” he said.
“And they have done it in other countries in the Caribbean before you know and we have had problems and I believe that the police may know at least one group or at least a couple individuals were involved in it. Not Vincentians; some persons who come and live among us. So I’m just advising this.”
In 2012, Canada imposed visa restrictions on SVG and a number of other countries.
“A key reason why the government has imposed visa requirements on St. Lucia and St. Vincent is unreliable travel documents. In particular, criminals from these countries can legally change their names and acquire new passports. In some instances, people who were removed from Canada as security risks later returned using different passports,” Ottawa said at the time.