Fri | Nov 16, 2018

Inadequate funding, staff hamper Jamaica’s human trafficking fight

Published:Friday | August 3, 2018 | 12:18 AMBrian Walker/Staff Reporter
Gordon Harrison

Diahann Gordon Harrison, national rapporteur on trafficking in persons, says that inadequate staffing and resources have hampered the operations of her office.

The Office of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons (ONRTIP) was created in March 2015 to monitor the efforts of the Government in the protection of human trafficking victims, prosecution of the crime, and implementation of preventative measures. Human trafficking is the movement of people using fraud, force, or coercion in an effort to exploit them.

“... The ONRTIP currently lacks the necessary resources to undertake extensive and comprehensive research activities. The lack of adequate staffing, office equipment, and financial resources negatively impacts the effectiveness and efficiency with which the office is able to execute its mandate,” said the national rapporteur in her first official report, tabled last Friday in the Senate.

Although the ONRTIP was formed in 2015, the office did not get budgetary support until a year later, and the budget for the 2018-2019 financial year is a little over $15 million. The ONRTIP currently has two members of staff: the national rapporteur and Anti-human Trafficking Officer Tameisha Udosen. Gordon Harrison, who is also the children’s advocate, explained that the minimum staff requirements are three research analysts, an administrative officer, an accountant, a public relations and education officer, and an information systems manager.

The report further stated, “It is hoped that in light of the foregoing, the Government will move quickly to provide the national rapporteur with the necessary resources she needs to fulfill her mandate.”

The national rapporteur has also recommended that her office be provided with a stronger framework to access data.

The report suggested, “For instance, the current MOU (memorandum of understanding) on data sharing could be amended to ensure that priority access to information and data on TIP is granted to the national rapporteur as a matter of right. In the same vein, consideration needs to be given to the creation of legislative support ... .”

The national rapporteur was appointed on March 10, 2015, amid Jamaica’s Tier Two watch-list ranking on the US Department of State 2014 Trafficking in Persons report. That ranking meant that Jamaica did not meet minimum US standards, but the island was making significant efforts to do so.

Among other things, the number of victims of severe forms of human trafficking was very significant or was significantly increasing. The country was also at risk of being downgraded to Tier Three, which would have had implications for bilateral funding from the US. Jamaica is currently ranked at Tier Two.

brian.walker@gleanerjm.com