US report blames 'dons' for human trafficking

Tuesday, June 15, 2010    

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THE US State Department has called on Jamaica to be more vigilant in the conviction and sentencing of human traffickers, whom it describes as largely 'dons' operating out of garrison communities that are "outside of the government's control".

In its 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report that was released yesterday, the State Department said that it was unable to get comprehensive data on trafficking prosecutions and convictions from the Jamaican Government during its reporting period.

"Over the past year, there were at least six ongoing trafficking prosecutions. The Government could not confirm the conviction or punishment of any trafficking offenders in 2009. NGOs (non-government organisations) reported trafficking offenders often disappeared on bail before being caught and before they could be prosecuted," it said.

According to the report, "poor Jamaican women and girls and increasingly boys", were subjected to "forced prostitution in urban and tourist areas". It also said women and young girls were forced into prostitution in other countries such as Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Bahamas and other Caribbean states. Additionally, it stated that "foreign victims have been identified in forced prostitution and domestic servitude in Jamaica".

But Jamaica, for the fourth straight year, retained its Tier 2 status, which is given to countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act's minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards

According to the report, the Jamaican Government has "demonstrated leadership in addressing human trafficking by acknowledging the problem, forging partnerships with NGOs, and making substantial strides in the area of victim protection -- opening a trafficking-specialised shelter in Kingston, despite limited resources."

"This progress was threatened by a lack of reporting on the punishment of convicted trafficking offenders, a critical element in both victim protection and deterrence of the crime," it stated.

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