Jamaica perplexed by trafficking report findings
The Jamaican Government has taken issue with the country's ranking in the 2015 Trafficking in Person Report released by the United States, countering that in some cases, the findings were not evidence-based, while in other instances, they were unfounded.
That response from the justice ministry came a day after the report, which was released by the US State Department on Monday and which maintained Jamaica's Tier 2 Watch List ranking for a second consecutive year.
The report cited several measures put in place by the Portia Simpson Miller administration to combat human trafficking but insisted that "the Government did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous [reporting] period".
"This conclusion is both perplexing, and in the Government's estimation, unfounded. The report itself concedes that Jamaica has made many positive steps in the past year," a release from the Mark Golding-led justice ministry underscored.
As an example, the report cited the number of children reported missing in Jamaica annually and the "high number of children vulnerable to both sex trafficking and forced labour" but said that despite this, only one child victim was identified by local authorities in the past year.
Responding to this, the justice ministry pointed out that the report gave no specific cases of any child-trafficking victim who was never identified.
"The negative inference, therefore, seems to be derived from conjecture rather than being evidence-based, which is a recurring feature of the report," the ministry said.
The 2015 Trafficking in Person Report also claimed that local non-governmental organisations have reported that "child sex tourism" is a problem in Jamaica's resort areas and 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.
But the justice ministry said that under Jamaican law, there is no definition for 'sex tourism', "and persons cannot be prosecuted for activities that are not criminal offences".
"No specific instances of 'sex tourism' are cited in the report and none has been disclosed to the Government. This allegation, therefore, appears to be based on anecdotal inferences and does not appear to be evidence-based," the ministry insisted.
"The Government, once again, emphasises that it has no knowledge, record, or information to support any activities that could be described as 'sex tourism' as defined by the United Nations," it continued.
In addition, the justice ministry said Jamaica has received no report to support allegations that members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force were complicit in prostitution rings that recruit children and adults into the sex trade.
"Again, this allegation does not appear to be evidence-based. The Government continues to welcome any evidence which the US government can provide so that this allegation can be fully investigated as claims without any substantiation are not helpful," it said.
Responding to criticisms of Jamaica's low conviction rate for human trafficking offences, the justice ministry reiterated that the courts are free of influence from the Government and that there are various factors outside a prosecutor's control that influence a trial.