JIS News

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Carol Palmer has assured that the establishment of shelters for victims of human trafficking would be done in short order, so that Jamaica can be “well in the reach” of a Tier One rating from the United States Department of State by June 2008.
“We are in the process of coming up with shelters. Notwithstanding that, we are making arrangements with the NGO community to provide support for our victims as we get our shelters in operation,” Mrs. Palmer informed stakeholders yesterday (July 18). She was speaking at an awareness seminar on human trafficking, at the Management Institute for National Development (MIND) on Old Hope Road in Kingston. The seminar was themed, ‘How Much Do You Know’. The Permanent Secretary, who is also Chairperson for the National Task Force Against Trafficking In Persons (NTFATIP), emphasized that the Government would not be operating shelters and would in fact contract the services “to people who are better able to do that.”
In the meantime, she said operational guidelines have been established to monitor the operators and ensure that victims are treated well, and are not re-victimized. Several training interventions have been done for state agencies and service providers, and also for the core persons working in the private sector, Mrs. Palmer informed.
“We have a consultancy on the way for the assessment of scope, and that will be completed in August, at which time we will know precisely the size of our problem in Jamaica, and also out of that, we will have the data systems for monitoring and evaluation of this crime,” she explained.
Additionally, she noted that special features of the Trafficking in Persons Act accounted for the government providing legal representation to victims. “So if you are a victim of this crime, you will not have to worry about paying attorneys. The government will also provide all social services, as we are doing now for some victims and also through the services of the judiciary, compensation will be payable to victims on the conviction of traffickers,” the Permanent Secretary assured.
The Ministry is also establishing for the support of victims, several teams that will be present when the victim is to be taken from the (trafficking) situation; work with the victim for social services and also for their full re-socialisation and re-integration into society. To this end, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) recently completed a series of training interventions for persons involved in direct assistance to victims. On the matter of prosecution, Mrs. Palmer said the frequency of raids has proven to be “disturbing to some of our operators of certain kinds of businesses, and there are complaints to certain quarters to curtail the activities of the police.” She noted that effective investigation is “another hallmark of what we are doing and we are training our police in every possible way to ensure that they are fully equipped to detect this crime, and of course, they have the assistance of our international partners as we seek to arrest and prosecute.”
In June of this year, Jamaica received a Tier Two ranking from the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report, moving up from the Tier Two Watchlist ranking of June 2006.
Mrs. Palmer stressed that Jamaica had its “turning point” with a Tier Three rating in 2005, and consequently, then Prime Minister P.J. Patterson established the Task Force, which saw the promulgation of the Trafficking in Persons Act, which was passed in January of this year. She said the legislation signalled the government’s intention to combat this crime.
“Public sector ministries and agencies, and civic organisations were brought together to form this task force and the members of this task force, which number 23 to 26, are very serious, committed Jamaicans who take the work of combating this crime very seriously, and we have been working extremely hard to bring us to Tier one. Indeed, we are not driven by the US government’s ranking, but rather our need to secure the safety and security of all persons within our borders,” she stressed. To this end, the NTFATIP established a plan of action setting up initiatives for prevention of the crime, particularly, public awareness. “The research shows that when persons are aware of the crime, then they are able to identify situations, they will be able to know when their neighbours, friends, family members are involved, or just be able to report the crime,” the Permanent Secretary told the audience.
Meanwhile, Political Officer for the United States Embassy, Dr. Rebecca Frerichs, informed that the Department of State estimated that some 800,000 persons are trafficked across international borders every year, to serve as unpaid or underpaid domestic labourers, or are forced to work as sexual slaves. “This number does not include the countless other victims who are trafficked within their own countries,” she added.
Dr. Frerichs pointed out that the words trafficking and smuggling were often used interchangeably, but were very different. “Trafficking involves the use of force or coercion to induce a person to engage in either commercial sex acts or involuntary servitude or debt bondage. A person who is smuggled has not been forced, nor the victim of fraudulent promises, nor coerced,” she explained. The June 2007 Advanced Executive Administrative Management Class, under the professional name, Trendsetters Jamaica Limited, in collaboration with MIND, hosted the seminar, as a major group project.

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