WASHINGTON: Twenty-two people have been arrested and nearly 350 potential victims of forced labor or sexual trafficking have been rescued in raids across the Caribbean and in Latin America, Interpol said Monday.
The international police organization said more than 500 police officers in 13 countries were involved in "Operation Libertad," which was conducted April 3-9.
Interpol said men and women were discovered working in "night clubs, farms, mines, factories and open-air markets." It said minors were among those rescued.
"In Guyana, young women were found working as prostitutes next to extremely remote gold mines, from which they could not escape," it said.
In another case, Asian "employees" at a factory in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had their passports taken away and were "made to be completely dependent."
"Having never received wages, they relied on their handlers for housing, transport, food and the most basic necessities," Interpol said.
"Operations like this show the power of Interpol providing a platform for the 13 participating countries," Tim Morris, Interpol's executive director of police services, said in a statement.
"But what sits behind these numbers is the human story," Morris said. "Whether it is someone's mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter, there is an intensely personal story that is usually -– unfortunately -– accompanied by a lot of suffering."
The Lyon-based Interpol said the countries involved in the operation were Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Curacao, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Venezuela.