JO - Tier two rating in human trafficking now official. US State Department upgrades Jamaica.
Tier two rating in human trafficking now official
US State Department upgrades Jamaica
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
THE United States (US) State Department has officially given Jamaica a tier two ranking in terms of the island's efforts to stem human trafficking.
In its June 2006 Trafficking in Persons Reports released yesterday, the State Department upgraded Jamaica from last year's tier three rating, acknowledging steps taken to curb human trafficking.
CAMPBELL. improved rating means Jamaica has demonstrated some initial progress in combating human trafficking
The official rating comes almost three months to the day that former Information Minister Burchell Whiteman appeared to have jumped the gun in announcing that the Americans had given the island the tier two rating.
The 2006 report labelled Jamaica as a "source country" for the trafficking of men, women, and children for the purposes of sexual exploitation and labour. It said information from international organisations and embassies working in Jamaica suggested that women from the Dominican Republic and Eastern Europe were trafficked to Jamaica for sexual exploitation. Women and children, it added, were also internally trafficked from rural to urban and tourist areas for sexual exploitation.
But some local sources have questioned the moral authority of the US to judge other countries in human trafficking, saying it should look at its own problems, and pointed to other types of atrocities being committed by the US military in places like Iraq.
WHITEMAN. jumped the gun in March announcing that Americans had given the island the tier two rating
"The Government of Jamaica does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so," the report conceded. "Although Jamaica demonstrated some initial progress in combating trafficking shortly after the last Report, Jamaica is placed on Tier two Watch List because the determination that it is making significant efforts is based in part on its commitments to take additional future steps over the coming year."
In the report, countries are ranked between one and three in terms of their efforts to tackle human trafficking. Tier one consists of countries which have fully complied with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; tier two includes countries which do not fully comply with the minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to meet compliance standards.
There is also a tier two watch list requiring special scrutiny because of high or significantly increasing number of victims, or failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking.
Tier three is comprised of countries that neither satisfy the minimum standards nor demonstrate a significant effort to come into compliance. These countries are subject to possible non-humanitarian and non-trade sanctions by the US Government, according to the report.
After learning about the ranking as it relates to human trafficking, the government stepped up its efforts to stem human trafficking through the launch of a public awareness campaign and the creation of an inter-agency task force to coordinate anti-trafficking matters and to enforce Jamaica's anti-trafficking and related laws. The report stated that, to date, there have been a number of raids and arrests, but no convictions under the Child Care and Protection Act.
There have been some related convictions under other aws, including the Spirit Licensing Act and also some reported immigration code violations. There are at least six cases currently under investigation. The government also temporarily suspended work permits for foreign exotic dancers, some of whom are victims of trafficking.
The report also said the ministry of labour was currently working on procedures to monitor individuals granted an exotic dancer permit, to ensure these persons were not being abused. However, despite some progress on law enforcement, official corruption remains endemic, the report claimed.
It noted, too, that law enforcement efforts were also hampered by a lack of resources, personnel and trafficking awareness.
However, the report stated that while the government had committed to advancing these initiatives over the coming year, very few investigations had led to prosecutions. It recommended that the government increase law enforcement efforts and take strong action against corruption that may impede progress in this area.
Meantime, at the post-Cabinet briefing yesterday, Information Minister Colin Campbell said that the improved rating meant that Jamaica had demonstrated some initial progress in combating human trafficking. However, the area of concern now relates to appropriate legislation to deal with the issue of human trafficking.
"The only legislation that we have dealing with the issue is Offences Against the Person Act," he said. "We are in the process of drafting specific legislation which we hope to take through all its stages during the current legislative year. So, hopefully, we will continue to show improvements."
The report highlighted the fact that Jamaica had specific laws against trafficking in children, such as the "Child Care and Protection Act of 2004"; however, there are no laws that specifically address trafficking of adults.
It said related criminal statutes, such as the "Offenses Against the Person Act" which prohibits certain aspects of trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, could be used to prosecute individuals for trafficking.Campbell stressed that the US had recognised the country's effort to stem human trafficking.
"The US government noted the efforts made by Jamaica over the last 12 months and this includes public information," he said. "They noted the launching of a public awareness campaign and the creation of an inter-agency task force to co-ordinate anti-trafficking matters and appointment of a police officer to handle trafficking-related investigations."
Jamaica is among 32 countries on the tier two watch list in company with Bolivia, Taiwan, South Africa, Kenya, India, Russia and China, among others. Countries such as Canada, France, Austria, German, Spain, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom earned a tier one ranking, while countries such as Cuba, Belize, Zimbabwe and Iran are at tier three.