Jamaica remains on watch list for human trafficking


The United States Department of State yesterday released its 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report. Jamaica fared the same as last year, with a Tier 2 designation. What this means is that while some progress has been made, it is not enough. For instance, Jamaica has appointed a National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons (Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon-Harrison), and it has made “substantive efforts” to raise awareness about the problem. However, the report states that

The Government of Jamaica does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so.

To back up a step, here is the State Department definition:

“Trafficking in persons,” “human trafficking,” and “modern slavery” have been used as umbrella terms for the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.

Specific to Jamaica, the report cites sex trafficking and labour as the two main problems. Young women and girls (and increasingly boys) are sent out to do sex work by their parents or pimps or “dons”. They are recruited anywhere, from schools, nightclubs, massage parlours…I have done some research on this and have heard that even taxi drivers who take children to and from school prey on these young people. They often live in a one-parent household or even with no guardians. They get caught up in earning money and do not have the resources to get out. There are a few safe houses in Jamaica, but of course, not enough.

From the report:

Authorities identified 20 potential sex trafficking victims in 2014, including four confirmed victims—three adult females and one female child—and 16 suspected victims, all adult females. In comparison, authorities identified 14 suspected victims of trafficking in 2013. Eleven of the suspected victims were Jamaican and nine were foreign nationals from Colombia, Guyana, and Suriname.

Forced labour occurs more on foreign soil, the report states, in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Jamaicans are tempted by offers from people promising a good life and salary and then find themselves stuck in a foreign country without legal status and only one way to make money. I also researched this, and heard of a group of young Jamaican men who went to the Boston area, only to find themselves living there illegally and working long hours as movers. They were promised their papers, but never got them.

I have seen evidence of the public education campaign, yet it remains an issue that is hard to grasp in general. In addition, there has been no word from the National Rapporteur to Parliament on what has been happening lately.

The report also cites a lack of prosecutions as a failing area.

The director of public prosecution successfully concluded a trafficking case at the Supreme Court. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period;therefore,Jamaica is placed onTier 2 Watch List. For the sixth consecutive year, the government did not convict any traffickers, including officials complicit in human trafficking.While the government identified more Jamaican adult trafficking victims than in the previous reporting period, it only identified one child victim compared with the high number of children vulnerable to both sex trafficking and forced labor.

It should be noted that only one case of trafficking made it to court (which resulted in a hung jury), no convictions were made, but 13 cases were pursued. It was only in April of 2014 that the government enacted the Criminal Justice Act, “which may be used to prosecute traffickers who are members of a “criminal organization” with penalties of five to 15 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes.

As far as recommendations go, the report calls on authorities to more vigorously prosecute, convict and punish traffickers. Which means devoting more resources to victims, creating a national action plan, developing standard operating procedures for authorities and providing more resources for victims once they try to re-enter life, granting the National Rapporteur more authority, providing an annual report and continuing to raise awareness.

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