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A special Committee has been established to review the procedures for granting work permits, particularly to migrant workers.
Making the announcement at yesterday’s (October 23) post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, Minister of Information and Development, Donald Buchanan said that although there was yet no conclusive evidence that persons granted work permits were victims of trafficking, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security was, “fully cognizant of the potential risk to categories of migrant workers, such as the exotic dancers”.
Consequently, a number of measures are being implemented to further strengthen the systems and procedures dealing with the granting of work permits, and these include the formation of the Committee.
As part of the review process, the Minister explained, “the issuance of work permits for dancers to be engaged in nightclubs has therefore been suspended, pending the outcome”. However, he informed that requests submitted by hotels for foreign dancers were still being granted, due to the need to maintain the cultural diversity of the entertainment and hospitality sector.
“There will still be close monitoring of work permits granted to this sector, to ensure that there are no breaches of the law, especially the facilitation of human trafficking,” he stressed.
The Committee, which comprises representatives of the Ministries of Labour and Social Security; National Security; and Justice, has been requested to submit a report of its work and findings to the Cabinet within four weeks.
Meanwhile, the Minister pointed out that the investigative capacity of the Work Permit Unit had been further strengthened with the engagement of a retired senior police officer, whose mandate included site visits to establishments that employed migrant workers.
“A number of nightclubs, construction sites and small business establishments have already been visited and the findings indicate that there have been some breaches by work permit holders,” Mr. Buchanan disclosed, citing examples such as changed employment without the applicable change in the terms of work permits as required by law; and leaving the place of employment before the end of the approved period of work, without submitting a forwarding address.
He assured that further investigations were being conducted and where non-compliance was found, such permits would be revoked. Steps have also been taken to advise the Passport Citizenship and Immigration Department about persons whose work permits have expired, in order to ensure that they do not remain in the island illegally.