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The special subcommittee of Cabinet, which was convened by Prime Minister P. J. Patterson to look into claims of persons being trafficked locally, has submitted its report. Information Minister Burchell Whiteman, who divulged the contents of the document to journalists at yesterday’s (June 11) post Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, said that the subcommittee was guided by definitions of trafficking from international sources and based on these definitions, it could be said that some amount of trafficking existed in the island. The Information Minister pointed out, that at the core of the trafficking of people issue were: exploitation which, in its most common form, involved forced labour; sexual exploitation; and domestic servitude, where people were made to work without proper compensation or proper treatment for their services. Explaining further, he said this involved recruitment normally done deceptively, where persons were promised certain outcomes but did not receive them.
Another critical element is transportation, which is not confined to cross border movement, as in the case of Jamaica, it included moving people from one parish to another. “When you put all of those elements together, the recruitment, the transportation and the exploitation of those who are the objects of the exercise, then you have a situation of trafficking,” Senator Whiteman stated.
The Information Minister said that apart from the human rights concern, there was also the matter of security as, “those who engage in trafficking for monetary gain are also able to transport people illegally on occasion into countries where they have no right to be and their purposes might not be entirely honourable.”
He said the report also highlighted the fact that there was need for “some clarity of the policy on the position of granting work permits for the commercial dancers” as that is “identified as one of the areas where trafficking is believed to take place.”
Senator Whiteman said it was also agreed, that there should be a review of the work permits application process, including group visas as well as the administering of proper sanctions for officials who do not adhere to the process.
Furthermore, the subcommittee recommended that there should be further discussions among the Labour and Social Security Ministry, which is responsible for the issuing of work permits, the Tourism Ministry and the Immigration Department working in tandem with the Jamaica Constabulary Force, to consider how to deal with those persons with work permits, who do not comply with the terms of their permits.
Senator Whiteman said it was also felt that the society, including those with direct responsibility for monitoring and policing the system, should be sensitized on the matter of trafficking in persons. He announced that as part of the plan of action, a sensitization programme is to be formulated, which will be available to the public within two weeks.
In the meantime, a team from the United States Department is to visit Jamaica shortly to meet with the trafficking in persons subcommittee. It will also meet with the Trafficking in Persons Unit within the Jamaica Constabulary Force and visit a place of safety.
Meanwhile, long term action to be taken to address the issue includes the establishment of a system for the compilation of data regarding the prosecution of persons for trafficking and the status of action taken as well as appropriate legislation to address victim protection.
Special efforts will also be made to sensitize and train the JCF and the relevant legal bodies on the issue. Furthermore, the National Plan of Action on Child Labour and the Plan of Action for Children will be pursued, to ensure that the exploitation of children is addressed and the Child Labour Unit is to be institutionalized. Additionally the Labour and Social Security Ministry is to review the work permits system to ensure proper investigations.
The Cabinet subcommittee was in response to a watch list issued last month by the United States State Department, naming Jamaica among 14 countries that had failed to do enough to stop the modern-day slave trade in prostitution, child sex work and forced labour.
Other countries listed as poor performers in preventing the trafficking in persons are: Bolivia, Cambodia, Cuba, Ecuador, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Togo and Venezuela. The US Congress began requiring the international ranking reports in 2000. This is the fifth report, and it covers trafficking to and from 150 countries.