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Police announced that they rescued 65 men and four women from the Transformed Life Ministry (TLM) Rehabilitation Centre in Arouca, Trinidad, during a sting operation early this week. The victims were ranged in ages from 20 to their 60s and most of them were found “in cages and some handcuffs. Local police described the conditions as “slavery” in the largest human trafficking ring in the country.

Some of them say they have been tor­tured. It is such a big­ger pic­ture with prof­it be­ing made out of this. Some believe fam­i­ly mem­bers de­lib­er­ate­ly send­ing their loved ones there and were extract­ing the prof­its from the fam­i­lies. Human trafficking, according to the U.S. department of Homeland Security, involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide annually, including in the U.S.

A member of the ministry speaking on condition of anonymity to the T&T Guardian denied that the people found at the facility were being trafficked and noted that the centre is simply a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion home for people who want to come out of drug ad­dic­tion.

It is not hu­man traf­fick­ing. It is a re­hab so the pas­tor have the place gat­ed to prevent them from run­ning   away. These peo­ple’s par­ents sign con­tracts and agree. They al­so view the places. … So why would fam­i­ly put their love one there if they saw it? Nobody there is in chains, etc., they are ly­ing. God hear me it is a lie, “the ministry mem­ber said.

In the days following, it was still unclear how the victims were being used for profit, but officers said the “barbaric” scene they encountered at the ministry showed evidence that the victims were being tortured.

Per­sons are seen in cages, hand­cuffed … per­sons were be­ing tor­tured. We saw tasers and ba­tons … and again this is a sit­u­a­tion of vir­tu­al mod­ern day slav­ery,” said officer Griffith.

At least six people have already been arrested in connection with the ministry which promised to use the Gospel and expert training to “serve male ex-prisoners and deportees by providing safe transitional housing, developmental and rehabilitation programmers, to promote healthy reintegration into society.”

The ministry was founded 19 years ago by pastor and ex-convict, Glen Awong, who said he was called to serve while doing a seven-year stint at the local Golden Grove Prison.

Despite adverse conditions and lack of resources, Glen ministered to the spiritual needs of the prisoners with a strong desire to impart the new found grace and message of God’s redeeming and restoration powers, that can change the ‘worst’ individual and remove the stains left behind from a life without God,” the ministry said.

Awong’s work in the prison with other inmates attracted the attention of prison officials and it earned him early release from prison for good behavior. He continued visiting with inmates after his release and conducted Bible classes with other former inmates until they found a physical space to house the ministry.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families effected, and we ask that yours be too. If you know any new developments on the story, share in the comments.

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