Police, Immigration and Health officials raided another branch of Me Asia Restaurant on Tuesday, arresting six Chinese nationals who are deemed to be illegally living in Trinidad.
On Monday, officials raided Me Asia on Ariapita Avenue, Woodbrook, and arrested ten Chinese nationals. The owner of Me Asia, despite warnings from the authorities, reopened on Tuesday, only for Health officials to close the business indefinitely.
The officials raided Me Asia’s other restaurant on Tragarete Road and after leaving with six Chinese, the business was also shut.
The management of the restaurant was advised by health officers to close down until they can address several health and safety violations. Officers of the Counter-trafficking Unit (CTU) are expected to interview several Chinese nationals who were taken into custody during the search.
Deputy Director of the CTU, Alana Wheeler, said the immigrants working at the restaurants may not only be victims of poor living conditions but poor labor conditions as well.
“Human trafficking is not just about sexual exploitation, human trafficking is also about labor issues,” said Wheeler. “For example what you would find here is that some people are being paid below minimum wage. If their sleeping or living conditions are not up to a certain standard, those are also violations and we are seeing that there are persons that live on the compound.”
According to reports, the CTU has been informed that some owners of Chinese restaurants and supermarkets have brought in a large number of Chinese nationals. These people have no legal status to stay in Trinidad.
One official stated, “These owners take away the passports of these Chinese people. These immigrants are then ordered to work in various capacities in the restaurants, such as cooks, waitresses etc. In the supermarket, they do hard labor. What is worrying, is that these immigrants are not paid a salary. They are giving boarding in very depressing conditions. They have no money to buy things like soap and toothpaste.”
The official said the conditions under which the Chinese nationals living are worrying to those in authority. “We are also concerned that in some restaurants the conditions are terrible and the public is not aware of what happens behind the kitchen doors. That is why we are going to these places and if we see the slightest infringement, we will not hesitate to close the doors.”
Police, Immigration, the CTU and Health Officials are planning a major crackdown for Christmas, searching for illegal immigrants. Since Monday’s raid on Me Asia, a number of illegal immigrants operating in Woodbrook, have gone into hiding.
ME ASIA RESTAURANT, ARIAPITA AVENUE, WOODBROOK, HAS BEEN CLOSED