More Focus on Investigation and Prosecution as Jamaica Aims to Improve Human Trafficking Ranking


Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Carol Palmer, said that the National Task Force Against Trafficking of Persons (NTFATIP) will be focusing on effective investigation and prosecution as the country aims for Tier 1 ranking in its efforts to combat human trafficking.
“Essentially now, as we work toward Tier one, the focus is on effective investigation and prosecution. There is no guarantee that we can get convictions, so we just have to prepare the ground and go to court and see what comes of it and we have to be tracking it,” she stated.
Mrs. Palmer, who was speaking at an Anti-Trafficking in Persons forum on Thursday (Sept. 27) at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston, said that the protection of victims remains a priority, along with the provision of shelter, proper care, protection and security.
According to the Permanent Secretary, the government has led an intense campaign to ratify and pass a number of victim-oriented legislation to protect vulnerable persons, as well as sensitise the public about the issue.
She noted that the anti-trafficking legislation, which has been in place since March of this year, imposes a prison term of 10 years or a fine of $10 million, but that could be amended if necessary. “We have to see how it works and then of course, we can amend it to make the penalties harsher, because . it must be a real deterrent to people wanting to commit this crime,” she pointed out.
The police, she said, is also being equipped to become more aware of the crime and to assist the victims. “There is an anti-trafficking unit, but not withstanding that, right across the length and breadth of Jamaica, police officers are being trained to be aware and alert to this crime. Guidelines are being developed for law enforcement and there is a draft manual that is being reviewed called, ‘Jamaica law enforcement: Guide to Investigation’ manual, and that is being reviewed by the prosecution sub-committee of our Task Force,” she stated.
Mrs. Palmer also informed that the police has stepped up activities in prosecuting the owners of established businesses that are involved in the trafficking of persons. “Not every business is involved in trafficking but there are established businesses in this country involved in trafficking, sexual exploitation; and with the police’s intense action, for example, on the Port Henderson strip, there are increasing complaints by these operators that the government/police is spoiling up their business,” she observed.
She noted that the Task Force “remains fully committed to its mandate as presented in the national plan of action for Jamaica to combat” the crime of human trafficking and are working assiduously to inform Jamaicans about the issue.
“Those are the major plans, and I think our public education plan will continue until any Jamaican that you meet at whatever age can tell you what is trafficking in persons and how do they see their role in dealing with the crime,” she stated.
In June of this year, Jamaica received a Tier Two ranking from the United States State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report, moving up from the Tier Two Watch list ranking of June 2006. Jamaica received a Tier Three rating, the lowest rank of the three tier system, in 2005.
A number of measures have been put in place to address the issue, including the passing of the Trafficking in Persons Act earlier this year.
Thursday’s forum served to review and highlight the impact of the United States Agency for International Development/People’s Action for Community Transformation (USAID/PACT)-funded Trafficking in Persons (TIP) project on the lives of 150 at-risk youngsters, who, through community based organizations are being trained to achieve employment status or to return to the formal educational system.

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