- Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, says the Government stands firmly in its resolve to protect persons, especially children from human trafficking.
- He added that the country maintaining tier two, in the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report by the US Department of State, makes a clear statement that the Government demonstrated increased efforts in addressing the issue compared to previous reporting periods.
- The Senate also approved the companion Bill, the Child Care and Protection (Amendment) Act, 2018, which will allow for an increase in the penalty from 10 years to 20 years for the sale or trafficking of children.
Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, says the Government stands firmly in its resolve to protect persons, especially children from human trafficking.
“We collectively stand together to eliminate and protect them (children) from the threat of human trafficking; to protect and provide remedies for those who have been victims; and to ensure we have legislation in place to prevent future cases,” he said.
Mr. Reid was making his contribution to the debate on the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression and Punishment) (Amendment) Act, 2018, in the Senate on Friday (Feb. 23).
The Minister noted that the passage of the amended TIP Act, will send a clear message to traffickers that the Government is unwavering in its commitment to protecting the nation’s children against such ills.
“We stand together to ensure that this legislation is implemented and we will let the perpetrators of these crimes know that we are unapologetically and fervently serious about our fight against trafficking in persons, especially our children,” he asserted.
Senator Reid further noted that “collectively, with one voice, we should encourage (a) change in our culture,” where speaking out is not frowned upon, but encouraged.
“We need more persons willing to give honest testimonies to help rid the streets of perpetuators of these vicious crimes and provide a safe environment for our women, children, as well as men who are also victims of trafficking,” he said.
In his contribution to the debate, State Minister for National Security, Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr, also concurred that persons need to speak out on these matters, noting that it is important for every Jamaican to play a role in supporting and protecting victims of human trafficking.
“When we see or hear things taking place, it is time for us to start speaking out… No National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons, no Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) unit alone can solve this problem. The country must stand together in making this a priority,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Senator Charles Jr said significant strides have been made in strengthening the Government’s capacity to detect and combat trafficking in persons.
These include adopting the Trafficking in Persons Prevention, Suppression and Punishment Act; establishing the Anti-trafficking in Persons Task Force; establishing the Anti-trafficking in Persons Unit in the JCF; appointing a National Trafficking in Persons Rapporteur; developing a National Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Persons; developing manuals to support training on trafficking in persons within the justice system; and implementing public education campaigns.
He added that the country maintaining tier two, in the 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report by the US Department of State, makes a clear statement that the Government demonstrated increased efforts in addressing the issue compared to previous reporting periods.
Tier two refers to those countries whose Government do not fully meet the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to comply.
For her part, Opposition Senator Sophia Fraser Binns, said she was pleased to see that efforts are being made to combat trafficking in persons, noting that she gives her support to any legislation that not only protects children, “but sends a message to perpetrators that as a country we are serious about protecting our children”.
Amendments to the TIP Act were drafted based on the multiple issues faced in prosecuting cases which may involve criminal networks and gangs which expose jurors and witnesses in these matters to a high risk of intimidation.
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) therefore recommended that trafficking offences under section four of the TIP Act, should be tried before a judge alone in the circuit court.
Additionally, a section of the Bill was amended to empower a judge to order that restitution awarded may be enforced by the victim or by the prosecution on the victim’s behalf, similar to a judgment in a civil matter.
The amended Act further makes provision to empower the Minister to make regulations to better carry out the restitution orders.
The Senate also approved the companion Bill, the Child Care and Protection (Amendment) Act, 2018, which will allow for an increase in the penalty from 10 years to 20 years for the sale or trafficking of children.
This will bring the Child Care and Protection Act in line with the penalty under the TIP Act, which was increased when the Act was amended in 2013.
Both Bills were passed in the Senate without amendments.