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National Security Minister, the Hon. Peter Bunting, says amendments to the Trafficking in Persons Act are expected to be passed in the House of Representatives before the summer recess.

The amendments have already been drafted and the Bill tabled in the House of Representatives last month.

Addressing a press conference at the Ministry of Justice, on Thursday, June 20, Mr. Bunting commended the National Task Force against Trafficking in Persons (NATFATIP) for its work in preventing human trafficking, which has contributed to Jamaica being removed from the tier two watch list to tier two of the United States State Department’s 2013 Trafficking in Persons report.

He informed that the Task Force conducted scores of raids in institutions that are likely to traffic persons, as well as worked on the draft amendments for the Legislation.

In the meantime, Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, pointed to the legislation as one of the things that had caused Jamaica to be placed on the tier two watch list of the United States in its ranking of the measures being undertaken by the Government to address human trafficking.

He explained that while Jamaica had a state-of-the-art legislation in 2007 that was based on the Palermo Protocol, which is an international convention, the US, which is the country’s assessors, had a broader view of human trafficking and pointed out certain deficiencies in the Act.

Senator Golding informed that the amendments include expanding the definition of “exploitation” to include debt bondage, which is now recognized as a form of trafficking; increasing the penalties from 10 to 20 years; providing for the new offence of conspiracy punishable by imprisonment of up to 20 years or both fine and imprisonment; outlining aggravating circumstances that the court may take into account in sentencing; and granting restitution to the victim within the same proceedings in which the person was convicted.

Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery involving victims who are typically forced, defrauded or coerced into various forms of exploitation. The Government has been tackling the problem through a number of initiatives, including the legislative amendment, public education and prosecution of persons found involved in the crime of human trafficking.

Contact: Andrea Braham