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LETTER OF THE DAY - Jamaica must tighten up human-trafficking policies

Published:Sunday | June 24, 2012 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I write in regard to the downgrade received by Jamaica from the United States Department of State in the new Trafficking in Persons Report. Based on my recent experience at the Norman Manley International Airport, I wonder if the actions observed are indicative of the Government's efforts to eliminate human trafficking during the period covered by the report. Therefore, I would not be surprised at the downgrade.

Against the background of the allegations made earlier this year that a woman had, over a number of years, been fraudulently obtaining US visas for underage Jamaican children and 'trafficking' them out of the island, I would have expected some measures to be in place at the airport to establish the bona fides of all adults leaving the island with minors.

no 'intereference'

Well, I left the island recently, accompanied by a female child who is not a blood relative and does not bear the same last name. I was surprised to find that we were able to pass through all the checkpoints and board the aircraft without any 'intereference' from airline staff, security, or immigration.

If I were a human trafficker, there went another child for the missing persons section of the nightly news. Surprisingly, on my return - alone - I met a fellow passenger travelling under the same circumstances, and he was asked at immigration to justify the presence of the child in his company. If this is THE POLICY, clearly it is not enough, and a million and one questions would readily spring to the mind of an aware observer.

While the authorities appear to be placing emphasis on the aspects of trafficking that take place internally, the airports would appear to be an open gate for external trafficking.

newspaper report

The newspaper report on the downgrade pointed out the lack of convictions of offenders and the identification of only one victim during the review period, among its most serious concerns. This is against the perception of Jamaica having a high rate of trafficking in the massage parlours and go-go club sectors.

With that being said, a few recent cases readily come to mind, which would seem to justify the State Department's conclusion, viz:

1. The deacon and the schoolgirl fondled by the schoolboys in his van is still before the courts.

2. The exotic dancers brought in from the Dom Rep and Guyana and the arrest of a husband and wife - still awaiting trial.

3. The arrest of the woman mentioned above - accused out on bail, trial yet to start.

The same article quotes Security Minister Peter Bunting highlighting some of the efforts being made by the Government. That's all well and good, but John Public needs to see them in operation and to readily expect the effects when he acts in a manner which could be perceived as trafficking.

HENRY THOMAS

het256@yahoo.com