Gov't adamant that a lot done to combat human trafficking
THE National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons (NATFATIP) says despite a recent downgrade by the United States (US) State Department, Jamaica has done more to combat human trafficking last year than in previous years.
In an interview on the JIS TV programme, Issues and Answers, chair for NATFATIP and permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Carol Palmer, said while no convictions were made last year, the Government had resources in place for the investigation and prosecution of every case.
"People have been prosecuted and we currently have eight cases before the courts," the permanent secretary said, noting that one of those pleaded guilty in May of this year.
Additionally, Palmer said the Government has equipped the police force to treat with human trafficking offences by establishing an Anti-Trafficking in Persons Unit in the Major Organised Crime & Anti-Corruption Task Force of the Jamaica Defence Force.
"I can attest to the fact that every single case that was reported has been investigated and their work is driven by intelligence," Palmer noted.
Other efforts employed by the task force include the amendment of the Trafficking in Persons Act in 2013; an islandwide public education campaign; and the establishment of a new shelter to house victims.
A main element of the amendment was to increase the penalties from 10 to 20 years; restitution for victims in the same criminal hearing; and outlining aggravating circumstances that the judge may take into account in sentencing, as outlined in section 6(2)(a) of the Act.
"The US Embassy assisted us with an islandwide public education campaign; we opened a shelter, which is in use [and] Government ministries, departments and agencies have been jointly providing their services to support the efforts of the task force. These include the Office of the Children's Advocate, Office of the Children's Registry, Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security," the permanent secretary said.
Palmer, in the meantime, said the task force is awaiting further discussions on the ranking by the US Department. And she has encouraged persons who know of, or suspect acts of human trafficking in their home or community, to contact the NATFATIP at 1 -888- PROTECT and make a report.
Jamaica was recently placed on the tier two watch list in the 2014 Human Trafficking Report.
This status suggests that the country does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so, and meet one of the following criteria: display high or significantly increasing number of victims; have failed to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking in persons, or have committed to take action over the next year. The tier two watch list is down from a tier two ranking last year.