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Jamaica not hard enough on human traffickers - US State Department

Published:Tuesday | June 28, 2011 | 12:00 AM

The United States (US) Department of State has recommended that the Jamaican Government bring the penalties for human trafficking in line with more serious criminal offences.

The proposal was contained in the State Department's 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report, which was released yesterday and shows Jamaica maintaining the Tier-2 status at which it was assessed last year.

Tier-2 is applied to countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standard set out in the US Trafficking Victims Prevention Act, but have made significant progress in their attempts to meet those standards.

The US conceded, in the report, that the up to 10-year prison term prescribed under Jamaican law for human trafficking offences is "sufficiently stringent", but suggested that it fell short of the punishment provided for other serious crimes.

"(The) punishment (10 years) does not appear to be commensurate with the penalties prescribed for other serious crimes such as rape," read a section of the report.

The report also pointed to the Jamaica Constabulary Force's anti-trafficking unit, which it said has conducted 14 raids and investigations since it began operations.

It said the unit initiated four new prosecutions of sex-trafficking cases during the period of the report, while six cases from previous reports remained "ongoing".

"The Government (of Jamaica) reported no convictions of trafficking offenders or any official complicit in human trafficking," the report said.

The report, however, acknowledged that Jamaica had made progress in protecting victims of human trafficking and had implemented a number of prevention measures.

"The Government of Jamaica does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, however, it is making significant efforts to do so," the report concluded.

Enhance training

The trafficking report also suggested that the Jamaican Government enhance guidance and training for the police, labour inspectors, child-welfare officials, health workers and other government workers in the identification of local and foreign victims of forced labour and sex trafficking.

According to the document, women and children from broken homes in inner-city communities controlled by 'dons' are more vulnerable to human trafficking.

It alleges that they are oftentimes lured into prostitution in nightclubs, bars, massage parlours and private homes on the false promise of employment.

The report said Jamaican non-governmental organisations have reported that child-sex tourism is a problem in resort areas.