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Human trafficking is serious problem for Jamaica - DSP Berry

Published:Monday | May 29, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke

Human trafficking involving sex and forced labour are together one of the most misunderstood crimes in Jamaica, said head of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit in the Jamaica Constabulary Force, Deputy Superintendent Carl Berry.

"The general thought is that only bad people get involved, maybe prostitutes. But the fact is far from that. This crime is a major priority in other countries such as the US," Berry said.

Nineteen persons have been charged since 2010 for breaching the Trafficking in Persons, Prevention, Suppression and Punishment Act.

So far this year, four persons have been convicted and are now facing a range of penalties from a high of 18 years' imprisonment in once instance. Others were being fined million dollars in restitution to their victims.

In the meantime, 74 victims have been rescued and returned home since 2010. This number includes 49 foreigners.

Jamaica has a Tier Two categorisation in the 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report, which stated that the country is a source and destination country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour.

One of most nascent practices, according to DSP Berry, is the popular escort services; a practice which he said has been viewed as a legal business by some people.

"These escort services are a big part of the problem. They carry the hallmarks of sex trafficking among other offences, and too many people fail to recognise the link," Berry said.