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US government still concerned about trafficking in persons in Jamaica; says local police may be complicit in prostitution ring

Published:Monday | July 27, 2015 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett

WHILE acknowledging Jamaica's efforts over the past year to identify more adult trafficking victims, the United States government has raised concerns that local authorities have only identified one child victim over the period.

The US State Department says its concerns are based on the large number of children who are reported missing in Jamaica annually and what it says is the "high number of children vulnerable to both sex trafficking and forced labour."

It also charged that Jamaican police personnel "may be complicit in prostitution rings, some of which are alleged to recruit children and coerce adults into the sex trade".

"Sex trafficking of Jamaican women and children reportedly occurs on streets and in nightclubs, bars, massage parlours, and private homes, including in resort towns. Jamaica is a source and destination country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour," the State Department underscored.

The concerns were enough to earn Jamaica a Tier 2 Watch List ranking for the second straight year in the State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report for 2015.

A Tier 2 Watch List ranking is assigned to countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims' Protection Act (TVPA), but are making significant efforts to become compliant.

It is also assigned to countries where, according to the US State Department, the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is "very significant" or is "significantly increasing" and where there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year.

The report noted that last year, Jamaican authorities initiated 38 new trafficking in person investigations, compared with 27 the previous year, leading to five arrests for suspected sex-trafficking crimes. It also pointed to the move by the Portia Simpson Miller administration to raise public awareness about the issue.


anti-trafficking efforts


The report said Jamaica identified 20 potential sex trafficking victims during the period under review, including four confirmed victims - three adult females and one female child - and 16 suspected victims, all adult females.

"Despite these measures, the Government did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period," it noted.

The report also falsely claimed that for the sixth straight year, the Jamaican Government did not convict any traffickers, including officials complicit in human trafficking.

Businessman Rajesh Gurunani was convicted on human trafficking charges in the Home Circuit Court, in June, marking the nation's first such conviction since 2007 and the first under the new legislation passed by Parliament in 2013.

As part of a raft of recommendations, the US State Department urged local authorities to develop a new and comprehensive national action plan to guide the police, labour inspectors, child welfare officials and health workers in the proactive identification of foreign and local victims of forced labour and sex trafficking, including children under the age of 18 who are involved in prostitution in night clubs, bars and massage parlours.