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Island’s police worked with Interpol on major Latin America human trafficking operation

Bermuda’s law enforcement agencies were on standby to assist in an international operation to combat human trafficking, which resulted in more than 200 arrests.

An operation involving police across Latin America working with Interpol led to the arrest of 216 suspects linked to migrant smuggling and human trafficking.

Bermuda was called in to act as possible back-up during Operation Turquesa III, which ran from November 29 to December 3.

Bermuda’s police, including the intelligence division and airport police, trained with the island’s Immigration staff and customs border agents, along with the yacht reporting centre, in preparation for the operation.

Island officials also teamed up with authorities across the Americas to train in how to deal with human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants.

Border readiness and the detection of smuggling were combined with the use of support agencies including the Vulnerable Person Unit, the Department of Child and Family Services, and the Centre Against Abuse.

Although Bermuda was never called into action during the five-day operation, a spokesman for the Bermuda Police Service said the event was an invaluable learning experience for the island’s agencies.

The spokesman said: “This was an excellent opportunity for participant groups to collaborate, recognise certain indicators, review daily observations at our borders, and learn exactly how Bermuda’s partnership groups work together – and in what sequence – should a case of human trafficking or migrant smuggling be encountered in the future.

“Bermuda law enforcement objectives in this regard included providing observational readiness at our borders, and to detect instances of human trafficking and migrant smuggling.

“If such an event was encountered in Bermuda, the further intent was to identify offenders, facilitate early victim identification, and activate support services and protection to victims of human trafficking.

“This is where our investigative and support mechanisms such as our Vulnerable Person Unit, Department of Child and Family services, and the Centre of Abuse are engaged. Their valuable expertise works to provide necessary support to victims of these types of crimes.”

The spokesman added that participants would compile regional results, look into areas in need of development and “bolster co-ordination of future joint activities in the region”.