Scores of Corporate Area residents, particularly students, were sensitized about the scourge of human trafficking when the National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons kicked off its renewed public education programme on December 7, at the Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre in St. Andrew.
Under the chairmanship of the Ministries of National Security and Justice, the task force has embarked on the revitalized campaign, in recognition of the fact that a targeted, well-sustained education programme, is vital in preventing and protecting the most vulnerable from falling victims to human trafficking.
Speaking with JIS News, National Security Minister, Hon. Peter Bunting, pointed out that one of the challenges of tackling human trafficking is that the issue is “not at the top of mind of most Jamaicans or most persons in the world,” hence the necessity to create greater awareness about this “modern-day slavery”.
“A critical success factor will be raising people’s awareness and our whole communication programme (including) lectures conducted by members of the security forces, social workers, etcetera, will all be geared around giving them information to be able to recognise human trafficking offences,” he said.
Minister Bunting said that sensitisation is important, as many people do not fully understand or recognize human trafficking. He reminded that the key element of human trafficking is not so much the movement of people, but the exploitation aspect. “It is exploitation either through force or trickery or some other means,” he noted.
Chairman of the Public Awareness Sub-Committee of theTask Force, Audrey Budhi, told JIS News that the programme is key in improving the country’s ranking in the United States (US) Department of State Trafficking in Persons report.
In the 2012 report, Jamaica was downgraded from a tier two, to a tier two watch list, which consists of countries whose governments do not fully comply with the US’ Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking , but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
The Department places each country into one of three tiers based on the extent of their governments’ efforts to comply with the TVPA’s standard.A tier one ranking indicates that a government has acknowledged the existence of human trafficking, made efforts to address the problem, and complies with the TVPA’s minimum standards.
Ms. Budhi informed that Jamaica was at tier three before, but due to the work of the task force, especially its public awareness campaign, the country was moved to the tier two watch list and then tier two. “But in 2011, we fell down back a tier to the tier two watch list. So this campaign is really now about moving our ratings from the watch list at least to tier two and then to reach to tier one,” she said.
The primary objectives of the task force’s campaign are to: sensitise those most vulnerable amongst the population, especially women and children, on human trafficking-related matters; to inform of the red flags and protect the general public from human trafficking; to encourage the public to report suspected incidents of human trafficking; and to sensitise potential clients of the sex trade.
Ms. Budhi who is also Director of Children and Family Programmes at the Child Development Agency (CDA), informed that the programme mainly targets women and children, as, internationally, statistics show that this group is most vulnerable.
“We will be going across the island and doing some school tours in getting to the children and their parents for them to understand first of all, what is trafficking in persons and what they should be looking out for and how the children would report even if they see something suspicious (in relation to) trafficking,” she told JIS News.
She further informed that the programme will involve visits to public libraries as well as producing pocket information to be distributed to “our frontline workers, like the police, immigration officers (so that) they can have ready information as to what to look for, who to call, how quick to call and so on”.
“We will also be (providing) some information sheets when we go to these public forums. On top of that, we will be continuing our training, because earlier this year, we trained some persons, who are answering the phones at the Office of the Children’s Registry and also with passport and immigration services,” Ms Budhi stated. These individuals have been trained to identify persons being trafficked and how to respond in such situations.
Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons through use of force or other forms of coercion, fraud, abduction, deception or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them.
The National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons is a multi-agency body comprising representatives from ministries, agencies and departments and non-governmental organisationsand was established as a mechanism to support the Government’s policy and action in combating human trafficking in Jamaica.
Also, as part of efforts to address human trafficking, Jamaica ratified the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons in December 2005. In 2007, Jamaica also passed the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression and Punishment) Act.