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The murky world of trafficking

Published:Thursday | June 17, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Dennie Quill, Contributor

The Guyanese government has come out with guns blazing against the 10th Annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report prepared by the US State Department, labelling the 373-page report 'crap'. Guyana has been placed on a Tier 2 Watch List, just lower than Jamaica and a number of other CARICOM territories which have been assigned Tier 2 ranking. In all, 58 countries are listed in Tier 2. Cuba is listed among Tier 3 countries and Haiti is described as a Special Case.

The United States for the first time was assessed in the report and gave itself a Tier 1 ranking. Yet, the report did not cover the US in glory. It stated that 14,500 to 17,000 people are trafficked to the US each year but prosecutions are in the hundreds. It described the US as "a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour, debt bondage, and forced prostitution".

In expressing its outrage at the report during a press briefing, the Guyanese Cabinet Secretary Dr Roger Luncheon called on the TIP unit to provide better particulars, while lashing the report for being "most superficial, unproven, the dirtiest kind of information collection and analysis ... ."

Jamaica's Tier 2 ranking means that while the government is not fully compliant with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in humans, it is making significant efforts to do so. The report has stirred an interesting debate here at home and postings on the popular Facebook site indicate that while many believe that human trafficking exists, few believe it is a widespread problem. The experts say human trafficking is a complicated and hidden crime. With Jamaica's culture of violence and the decline in economic opportunities, it is not difficult to imagine that many young men and women will fall prey to the lure of dons and community benefactors who promise jobs and a brighter future.

Counterproductive

It is estimated that nearly a million men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year. Last year, the International Labour Organisation estimated there were 12.3 million persons in forced labour, sex trafficking, debt bondage and working as child soldiers around the world. The result is that girls and women are forced into prostitution, labourers are made to work in dangerous conditions and nannies and domestic workers are trapped into various forms of slavery.

I believe it is important that the problem be highlighted so that it gets greater attention from everyone. However, I find it counterproductive for the US to stand in judgement of the world when the very evil it purports to eradicate is happening in abundance in its backyard. I find the report to be contradictory for how is the US any different from Jamaica in that it is not fully compliant but is making 'significant' efforts to eliminate human trafficking.

So instead of naming and shaming, I believe the US and the 175 countries that it seeks to rank in efforts to end modern day slavery should be cooperating with each other on this crime against humanity. We should be helping to alert and sensitize people to the presence of slavery and trying to see how we can deploy resources to deal with the problem.

Like it or not, we in Jamaica have to confront the reality that there is definitely exploitation of the poor via prostitution and drug smuggling. Let us throw the light on the murky world of human trafficking and try to end this shameful practice.

Dennie Quill is a veteran journalist. Send feedback to denniequill@hotmail.com