Several bar raids on Friday night in Orange Walk Town resulted in over twenty female workers being detained and tonight, they are still spending time behind bars. According to their attorney, Marcel Cardona, at 4:00pm today, a little over 66 hours have elapsed since a special operation carried out by Belmopan Immigration Department resulted in the detention of twenty six female bar workers. From what we have been able to gather, on Friday around 10:00pm, teams descended to popular entertainment spots around Orange Walk Town resulting in the detention of the 20 female workers. Attorney for the detainees Marcel Cardona says, authorities are limited to a 48 hour detention period and after that time has elapsed, if there is no evidence of charge that the arrestees deserve to be free. Here’s what he told us outside the police station today….
MARCEL CARDONA – Attorney
“Simultaneously they started raiding all bars in Orange Walk in particular I understand it was Mexically Bar, Picame Bar, Copa Cabana Bar, and at each of these bars they picked a number of females that may have been around the place or inside people that they believe may have been associated with these bars it is my understanding that at Mexicaly bar two young ladies of Guatemalan nationality were detained as well as two from Honduran nationality, at Copa Cabana Bar one of the three young ladies detained were of Guatemalan nationality whilst two were Honduran nationality, at Picame bar it is my understanding that one of the young ladies was of Belizean nationality whilst seven young ladies that were around the place or whatever detained were of Honduran nationality, at Paraiso bar I understand that three of the young ladies detained were from Guatemalan nationality and five were from Honduran nationality in addition to that there were three other persons that were detained that were on suspicion of being involved in either the ownership or the management of these institutions bring it to a grand total of 26 females that have been detained since Friday night at around 10pm, under the Belize constitution I believe it is section 5 it makes it abundantly clear that any one that is arrested or detained if the authorities are limited in the number of hours which they can lawfully detain such an individuals they limited to only 48 hours within which they must investigate and decide whether either they will lay a charge against the person if there is enough evidence or that they simply release the person without charges and right now as we speak we are at around 65 hours into this police investigation and no charges whatsoever has been laid and the date line to have done is Sunday night 10pm and that has not happened, the immigration officer have not even shown their faces and I have been at the Orange Walk police station from very early this morning and again up to now no immigration officer has shown his face.”
Among the women detained were 6 Guatemalan Nationals, 16 Honduran national, 1 Belizean and 3 other persons who are suspected of being involved in ownership of these establishments. Cardona says he is under the belief that all his clients are legally in the country. Our calls placed to officials at the police department and the Belmopan Immigration has gone unanswered. Interesting to note is that Belize is among the countries with the highest rates of Human Trafficking in the region. While this paints a negative image for a small country like Belize, the U.S. Government's Department of State has taken aim at the Belize Government for not doing enough to combat human trafficking in its official 2014 Report on Human Trafficking released on Saturday 21st June 2014. The U.S. State Department further accused the Belize Government and the Belize Police Department saying: "Many off-duty police officers provide security for sex trade establishments, which risks inhibiting victims from coming forward and law enforcement’s willingness to investigate allegations of human trafficking in the sex trade."