I live in St. Martin and have experienced human trafficking first hand. At one time I was part owner of a woodworking business, with premises on the shores of the Simpson Bay Lagoon. All our work came from yachts and we were busy. To help customers get to the shop, we built a small dock and it was this dock that the human traffickers used. Opening the shop early in the morning I would often find a stash of clothing and food alongside water and fuel containers waiting for a pickup boat that had been delayed.
Around this time the local papers were running stories about open boats loaded with migrants foundering in the Anguilla Channel. How many of these boats went down has never been ascertained but it was quite a few. Unless picked up quickly, the men, women and children had little chance of surviving. The overloaded boats carried no lifejackets and those who could swim faced a daunting task, assuming land was even in sight. Other news stories talked about boats going down in the Anegada Passage, and these brought up the subject of sharks, which would only have added to the terror facing those risking such a perilous voyage in search of a better life.
The authorities in St. Martin knew what was going on yet did very little to stop it. There are two narrow entrances to the Simpson Bay Lagoon, yet no traffickers were stopped. It was as if people smuggling was seen as OK, a viable career path, a way to make good money that was ‘sort of’ legal. I know that certain businessmen financed these operations and received large returns on their investment. Were police officers being given cash to look the other way? The chances of that are very high. The building of a coast guard station along with the purchase of several patrol boats brought an end to human trafficking in St. Martin, or at least made it very difficult.
In the quest for a better life, would you risk it all? I think I would, and my heart goes out to the hundreds of thousands of people we see fleeing war zones every day. What I observed during my early days in the Caribbean is now happening on a global scale. Whereas migrants moving from one Caribbean island to another were economic migrants, those fleeing the savages in the Middle East are running for their very lives. I believe their plight lies squarely on the shoulders of certain governments in the west and it is the west that will bear the brunt of this huge upheaval. In the meantime, criminal organizations have found a new source of wealth through trafficking large numbers of people. This is nothing less than a modern version of the slave trade and there is little doubt that, beyond trafficking, women and children are being bought and sold.
The massive problems we are seeing today began long after I started writing Caribbean Deep and it was only while writing the last chapters that the first videos of migrants crossing the Mediterranean were appearing on news broadcasts. Watching these dramas unfold, one commentator remarked: “To believe in freedom is to believe that everyone deserves a chance ...”
That comment changed the course of the book and was the cause of a major rewrite.
Caribbean Deep is a high-action thriller and a product of my imagination. The twist towards the end is a product of my conscience.