Scores of young men are fodder for human traffickers and predators
Adrian Frater, News Editor
Western Bureau:The St James Parish Development Committee (PDC) is calling for a structured social mechanism to address issues such as homelessness, human trafficking, child labour, behavioural problems, health and deportation - all of which is said to be negatively impacting at-risk youth.
Following its regular meeting last Wednesday, the organisation released a document stating that the inability of at-risk youth to successfully integrate into the formal sector relegates them to being ideal candidates for child labour, human trafficking, drug abuse, HIV/STI, and gang activities.
"These unaccounted for street children have created a resource pool where criminal elements and gangs can recruit youth for illicit activities such as child prostitution, robbery, drug trafficking, and keep and care of guns," said the PDC.
"These children are the primary source from which human traffickers identify their victims as there is no monitoring mechanism in place within the region."
That is a position shared by social activist and head of the Community Organisation for Management and Sustainable Development, O'Dave Allen.
He argued that the state needs to move quickly to address the situation as it needs a permanent fix.
"We now have street children sleeping in the People's Arcade, in the markets and at the Dump-up Beach; also at the back of Bay West Plaza," noted Allen.
"This is clearly a case of state agencies not addressing these issues. So due to the urgency of the situation, there is now a need for the establishment of an institution to address these needs and issues," added Allen.
SEVERAL NOT FROM PARISH
Speaking against the background of an incident last Wednesday in which a group of homosexual men, who had captured and occupied a house in the Porto Bello community, were firebombed and chased out of the community, St James Public Health Department official Everald Morgan, said many of those attacked were not from the parish.
"The situation facing some young MSMs (men having sex with men) include HIV/AIDS issues, moving from one parish to another due to their lifestyle, and the capturing of houses in areas such as Rose Mount, Westgate Hills, Brandon Hill, Ironshore, and Barrett Hall," said Morgan.
"They relocate to the Montego Bay area for the opportunity of earning a living by prostitution, street vending, child labour and other illicit acts. Some are also deportees."
Rebecca Gayle, a Citizen Security and Justice Programme officer, suggested that a public-education programme about at-risk youth and their impact on society be established.
"The first step in intervention is to do a public-education programme to educate the public on the issues and how it is affecting our youth and society, and the roles and responsibilities of each citizen," said Gayle.
In supporting Gayle's position, Allen said the literacy challenges facing young males should be quickly addressed as it was causing a serious setback in regards to their ability to access services and participate in intervention activities.
In regards to the issue of at-risk children falling prey to human trafficking, the PDC statement noted that human trafficking was just one of a myriad of antisocial activities.
"These children are the primary source from which human traffickers identify their victims as there are no monitoring mechanisms in place within the region. The presence of this pool of adolescence youth has increased the risk of tourism harassment, the contraction and transmission of HIV/STI, and anti-social behaviour," the release stated.