Lock them up

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Lock them up

Call made for people who force others into criminality to be charged

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, February 29, 2020

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NATIONAL Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons Diahann Gordon Harrison has appealed to legislators to recognise “forced criminality” as a form of human trafficking, as the country builds its arsenal of tools to trap these perpetrators.

“Forced criminality is not yet recognised by the Jamaican statute as a form of human trafficking, but this is something we need to think about seriously, because we know that in the culture of gangs in Jamaica many times young boys are used as the lookout person, many times they are used to enter somebody's home because they have the smaller bodies and they can go through the small spaces, and sometimes when they are being groomed by the gangs...they feel as if they have no choice but to go ahead [and commit criminal acts] because they could die or a member of their family [could be killed],” Gordon Harrison pointed out.

Speaking at yesterday's launch by her office of the Human Trafficking E-Learning Tool, funded by the British Government to the tune of $3 million, at Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St Andrew, Gordon Harrison pointed out that forced criminality 'is a recognised category of human trafficking in other jurisdictions'.

“It is something I am going to encourage as Jamaica continues to tweak its anti-human trafficking rubric, that we consider this one very seriously as well,” the national rapporteur on trafficking in persons said.

The tool, reportedly the first of its kind in the Caribbean, has now been placed in the hands of government workers on the country's front lines that should assist them to further spot and deal with human traffickers.

Yesterday Gordon Harrison, in pointing out that “human trafficking is big business, a multi-billion-dollar business that knows neither colour, race, wealth, poverty, geographical location, nor language”, said Jamaica regrettably has the largest number of human trafficking victims when compared to the other Caribbean territories. She urged that people pay close attention to situations which, at first glance, would not appear to fall in the category of trafficking in persons. She noted that when it appears in forms such as domestic servitude it is not readily noticed, because of the Jamaican culture in which people with large families sometimes send their children to live with other people who are thought to be able to give them better opportunities. These children, she said, often end up being workhorses and in some cases are never allowed to attend or return to school.

British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad said the partnership was in line with the approach being used by his country over the past few years.

“In the last few years we have made tremendous improvements by looking at incidents at airports; that is one way in which people are whisked away into prostitution and other forms of abuse. Sometimes we see it even in the guise of marriage, which actually is forced. We have introduced joint working between agencies, including law enforcement and immigration, so that all modes of transport and risks are looked [at]. But we need to have international partners to address this unspeakable crime,” he pointed out, noting “that the cruelty and impact of exploitation of victims of human trafficking cannot be in any way understated.

“Young women are trafficked for sexual exploitation, domestic service and many other horrendous experiences. And this is not a class crime; it is not persons who are vulnerable and poor [who are affected as] sometimes it reaches the very top end of society, even diplomats. If, for example, a family rustrated by an adolescent who is misbehaving in the United Kingdom [sends the adolescent] to Jamaica to be looked after by family and friends, under that very simple transaction something terrible can be unleashed,” he pointed out further.

He said focus is being placed on “identifying organised crime groups because this has become, sadly, an organised industry and not the work of individuals”, but said more needed to be done.

“We are focusing not just on detection but on the arrests. We want to strengthen the ways in which these cases are prosecuted, gathering evidence across borders where necessary, and our focus is very simple. We want to put these criminals behind bars,” Ahmad added.

“We are also looking at ways to look at the victims, those who are potentially vulnerable, and prevent it from happening at an early age through the work that we do with schools, social workers and many others who intervene with children at an early age. That's why our immigration enforcement teams here at the British High Commission here in Kingston and in Bridgetown are pleased to have the opportunity to work with the NRTIP because that is where we need the intervention,” he told the launch.

Deputy Commissioner of Police in Charge of Crime Fitz Bailey said law enforcers remain “committed to engaging in an aggressive enforcement of the legislation”.

“We further commit to pursue human traffickers wherever they reside. The truth is, Jamaica is no safe haven for human traffickers,” Bailey said.

The deputy commissioner said in furtherance of these efforts the constabulary has instituted a protocol whereby every divisional commander is required to identify clubs and other places of entertainment where there are suspicious activities taking place.

“Seven people were convicted and 26 cases are currently progressing at all levels of the local court system [concerning human trafficking cases]. We have also provided training and accreditation of over 250,000 people, since 2005, within the public and private sectors,” Bailey said.

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