- The Jamaican Government has registered its deep disappointment with aspects of the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report of the United States State Department (released on Monday July 27, 2015).
- The Report states that “Jamaica does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of Trafficking; however it is making significant efforts to do so.”
- Nevertheless, Jamaica’s Tier 2 Watch List ranking has remained unchanged because, according to the Report, “the Government did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous period”.
The Jamaican Government has registered its deep disappointment with aspects of the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report of the United States State Department (released on Monday July 27, 2015), and with the continuation of the Tier 2 Watch List ranking which Jamaica received last year.
The Report states that “Jamaica does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of Trafficking; however it is making significant efforts to do so.”
Nevertheless, Jamaica’s Tier 2 Watch List ranking has remained unchanged because, according to the Report, “the Government did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous period”.
This conclusion is both perplexing and, in the Government’s estimation, unfounded. The Report itself concedes that Jamaica has made many positive steps in the past year, and acknowledges the following:
- Jamaica has named a National Trafficking in Persons Rapporteur. The appointment of a National Rapporteur by Jamaica is a significant step, and the first of its kind in the Caribbean. It will ensure that Jamaica has an independent, objective institutional reporting mechanism in relation to human trafficking.
- As the Report also states, “the Government made substantive efforts to raise public awareness of Human Trafficking”. The Government’s public education efforts must be considered. Despite the significant resource constraints Government has implemented a robust and comprehensive mass media/public education campaign, which includes placements on all local radio stations, the two national television stations, in cinemas, on buses as well as on electronic multimedia screens at strategic locations across the island. These have addressed issues of child begging, forced labour and domestic servitude.
- A curriculum on human trafficking has been developed to raise awareness among school children, and has been presented to the Ministry of Education for implementation.
- Jamaica successfully concluded a trafficking case at the Supreme Court, even though the outcome was a hung jury rather than a conviction.
- More Jamaican adult trafficking victims were identified than in the previous reporting period. Having acknowledged this, the Report, by way of a negative inference, states that only one child victim was identified, and juxtaposes this with “the high number of children who are vulnerable to both sex trafficking and forced labour”. However, no specific instance is mentioned of any child victim of trafficking who was not identified. The negative inference therefore seems to be derived from conjecture rather than being evidence-based, which is a recurring feature of the Report.
- The protection of victims improved during the period 2014 over 2013.
- The police developed a standard operating procedure on victim identification, which is available by intranet at the National Police College. The Report also recognizes the training of Police Officers, Judges and Resident Magistrates.
- Jamaica is credited for the collaboration between the Jamaica Constabulary Force Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit and its Bahamian counterparts in facilitating a conviction in that jurisdiction.
These efforts over the past year have built on the foundation laid in prior years, which are also acknowledged in the Report:
- Jamaica has put in place comprehensive Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression and Punishment) Act prohibits all forms of trafficking, and the Report admits that “the penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes”.
- A Shelter for trafficking victims has been established by the Government, with appropriate services being supplied to the 20 confirmed and suspected victims, and financial assistance being provided for their basic necessities.
- The Office of the Children’s Registry has been receiving reports and referrals concerning violence against children and trafficking victims, using its standard procedures.
- The Government has been complying with its stipulated immigration regime in treating with foreign victims.
The Government wishes to make the following additional observations:
- The Government has repeatedly emphasized to the US authorities that it has limited control over decisions of the Court. In Jamaica, due process is constitutionally guaranteed in every criminal case, and the Courts are free of influence from the Government. There are also various factors outside the prosecutor’s control which can affect the outcome of a trial, such as the willingness of a witness to come forward and give evidence, especially where the witness is from a foreign jurisdiction and exercises his or her choice to return home before trial.
- There are currently two victims being housed at the Government-operated Shelter. The decision to remain in the shelter is usually made by a victim, not the State. While in care of the State and housed at the Shelter, victims are provided with all the necessary resources, medical assistance and other social services. In order to protect the victims from retaliation, intimidation or being re-trafficked, their movement is limited. Additionally, arrangements are made for victims to be temporarily housed elsewhere, if they choose to return home or be reintegrated in the society.
- In making the allegation that child sex tourism is a problem in Jamaica’s resort areas, the report apparently reflects information garnered from NGOs and other local observers. However, there is no definition of “sex tourism” under Jamaican law, and persons cannot be prosecuted for activities that are not criminal offences. The United Nations World Tourism Association defines sex tourism in their Global Code of Ethics for Tourism as “trips organized from within the tourism sector, or from outside this sector but using its structures and networks, with the primary purpose of effecting a commercial sexual relationship by the tourist with residents at the destination.” The Government once again emphasizes that it has no knowledge, record or information to support any activities that could be described as “sex tourism” as defined by the United Nations. There is no information to suggest that the structure or network of the tourism industry facilitates a sex tourism trade in Jamaica. No specific instances of “sex tourism” are cited in the Report, and none has been disclosed to the Government. This allegation therefore appears to be based on anecdotal inferences, and does not appear to be evidence-based.
- Regarding allegations of Jamaican policemen complicit in prostitution rings which recruit children and coerce adults into the sex trade, the Government has received no such report, and again this allegation does not appear to be evidence-based. The Government continues to welcome any evidence which the US Government can provide so that this allegation can be fully investigated, as claims without any substantiation are not helpful.
 The recent conviction of an individual for offences under the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression and Punishment) Act occurred after the end of the period covered by the Report.