Tue | Dec 1, 2020

We need to do more to tackle trafficking, Chang admits

Published:Saturday | July 6, 2019 | 12:17 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang says that Jamaica’s continued failure to rise from the Tier 2 ranking in the United States’ 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report is due to deep-seated cultural issues and a lack of adequate legislation.

“We are at Tier 2, and we want to get to Tier 1 fast, but there are some technical aspects of it, which takes a little time, in terms of legislation approach, plus there are some cultural differences,” Chang told The Gleaner on Thursday.

The US State Department recently chided Jamaica for its poor handling of human trafficking cases, arguing that the country was not doing enough to prosecute offenders and protect victims. It also questioned the Government’s commitment to eliminating the scourge of human trafficking.

“The Government maintained weak efforts to protect victims,” a section of the report read. “While it (Jamaica) increased funding for victim services, it identified a small number of victims, and the identified victims received minimal services before authorities returned them to their homes.”

LONG-STANDING CHALLENGE

Chang said that the abuse of women and children has been a long-standing challenge and needs urgent attention.

“The abuse of our women, our young boys, and young girls is a horrible crime that we are very concerned about, and we are making every effort to reduce the problem, and, hopefully, even get rid of it. It is one of the major crimes that I find most despicable,” said Chang as he spoke with The Gleaner following a tour of the Flankers Educational Institute in Montego Bay, St James, on Thursday.

“We have specific bodies now working on it, and there is a Trafficking in Persons Task Force that monitors and works, and that body will continue to work,” said Chang. “It (human trafficking) is a growing and horrendous crime that we have to take more steps to improve on.”

Based on statistics provided to the US State Department, the Jamaican authorities say they are investigating 36 trafficking cases, a 20 per cent rise over the previous reporting period in 2017-18. In that period, the report said, they prosecuted six defendants, which was three more than the previous period.

The US State Department is concerned that the nine prosecutions from previous years remained ongoing, saying that the justice system is too slow in completing cases, which is reducing confidence among victims and witnesses. The report also raised an alarm about the absence of a mechanism to assign trafficking cases to specific judges with specialised training in that field.

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