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‘Get cracking on trafficking’ - Gov’t urged to act on months-old TIP recommendations

Published:Monday | July 1, 2019 | 12:00 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Gordon Harrison

Diahann Gordon Harrison, national rapporteur on trafficking in persons (TIP), is urging Jamaican authorities to get “cracking” on improving the country’s Tier-2 ranking in the United States Department of State’s recently released 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, which raps the island for not doing enough to protect victims.

Stating that she was “very happy” the country had not slipped from Tier-2, Gordon Harrison said she was concerned about the assessment that it had engaged in ineffective efforts that failed to assist with protecting victims.

“We need to look at it carefully and we need to get cracking, not just because of the criticisms,” she said.

Gordon Harrison, who is also the island’s children’s advocate, noted that little headway has been achieved on implementing any of the almost 30 recommendations she had put forward last December for boosting efforts in areas such as prevention, prosecution and protection.

The various relevant ministries, departments and agencies of government, she said, have not acted on the recommendations which were included in the First Report of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons.

“Some of these are low-hanging fruits that, if we get cracking on them, we will continue to improve our profile. We are currently trying to assess that,” Gordon Harrison said.

Up to last night, The Gleaner was unable to reach any government official who could speak with authority on a review of the recommendations, as some said they were unfamiliar with the document and calls to others went unanswered.

“That certainly will be a part of the follow-up report that we are doing and intend to issue in the last quarter of this year. That will be our second annual report to Parliament on the issue, whereas we assess just how much of our recommendations have been acted upon and if there is an issue, what exactly the scope of the problem is and how we can get on the road to having some traction.”

Among the recommendations included in the rapporteur’s first report were increased coordination among stakeholders, proactive victim identification, registration and robust monitoring of employment agencies, and collaboration with embassies and high commissions.

The report also said there should be an increase in the number of prosecutors, a revamp of the national anti-human trafficking plan of action, and increased protection for domestic workers.

The State Department TIP report indicated that the Jamaican Government has increased funding for victim services, but on the other hand has maintained weak efforts to identify and protect victims. It also said that victims who were identified received minimal services before authorities returned them to their homes.

The report pointed a finger at the justice system for being slow in completing cases, causing victims and witnesses to lose confidence. Serious concern was also raised about the trafficking of women and children, including boys, in nightclubs, bars, hotels and resort towns.