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Safe houses coming for human-trafficking victims

Published:Wednesday | February 24, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Arthur Hall, Senior Staff Reporter

The Government is spending just over $25 million to refurbish three buildings to be used as safe shelters for the victims of human trafficking.

One shelter has already been completed at a cost of $10.7 million, while the second is 75 per cent complete and the third is 50 per cent done.

Details on the three shelters were released yesterday by Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne as she opened a workshop on human trafficking in St Andrew.

According to Lightbourne, the three shelters will house a total of 36 people.

"These shelters are located in the northern, southern and central areas of the island and will provide bedrooms and a counselling centre, where the victims can receive therapy or meet with legal officers," Lightbourne said.

The shelters will also have a sick bay, training room, recreational room for adults, playroom for children, outdoor space for recreational activities, and living quarters for a house mother and a security officer.

"Upon completion, the shelters will be handed over to the Ministry of National Security, and the Ministry of Justice will continue to provide assistance to the victims," added Lightbourne.

Over the past two years, eight suspected cases of human trafficking have been successfully investigated and placed before the Jamaican courts.

Arrests made

Five raids were conducted last year, resulting in 22 people being interviewed, four arrests and three cases being brought before the courts.

So far, two persons have been convicted for human trafficking in Jamaica.

The Government has already established a trafficking-in-person unit that operates within the Organised Crime Investigation Unit of the police force, with five officers assigned to probe cases of trafficking.

Human trafficking is the practice of having persons tricked, lured, coerced or otherwise removed from their home or country, and then forced to work with no or low payment, or on terms which are highly exploitative.

Locally, it is primarily poor women and girls, and increasingly boys, who are trafficked from rural to urban and tourist areas for commercial sexual exploitation.