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Threats of suicide

Kids Kare

BY ANIKA RICHARDS Sunday Observer staff reporter richardsai@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, July 20, 2014    

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CHILDREN who are victims of trafficking often respond by threatening to commit suicide, with a few actually attempting to take their lives.

The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. It went on to say that exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

Children are among the most vulnerable group to human trafficking.

However, though a child victim's response is dependent on the nature of trafficking and the personality of that child, head of the Prosecution Sub-Committee of the Human Trafficking Task Force, Lisa Palmer-Hamilton, told the Jamaica Observer recently that what they have found is that, across the board, child victims of trafficking either attempt suicide of threaten to commit suicide.

"If it is a sexual offence [case] for example, as we have one pending... coming up in February, we found that she was traumatised at the initial stages when she made the report to two women who were really being like the good Samaritans to her, and took her to the police station, and she basically opened up," said Palmer-Hamilton.

"Now, it is imperative that at this stage, with the initial contact with the police, that immediately the counselling and health services are engaged," Palmer-Hamilton continued, "because we may be dealing with psychiatric, psychological, emotional, and also... the physical effects of the trafficking on this particular type of victim".

The head of the Prosecutions Sub-Committee further explained that in the case of labour exploitation -- as was the case with a group of boys from Honduras on a fishing boat in Jamaican waters, the emotional trauma was so deep that some reacted by physically getting sick.

The general trend, though, is depression followed by suicidal thoughts, threats and attempts.

"There may be one or two who may attempt suicide, and so immediately there has to be implemented the suicide watch, so whatever implements that may be around that could possibly be utilised by them to commit the acts of suicide, those have to be moved so you are finding that all the personnel who attend to these children or even adult victims, have to be on board with respect to what are the traumatic effects on victims of trafficking, what to expect," Palmer-Hamilton explained.

Jamaica was recently downgraded by the United States Department of State and placed on the tier two watchlist in the 2014 Human Trafficking Report, moving from a tier two ranking last year.

The tier two 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. A tier two status includes countries who meet one of the following criteria: a high number of victims, or where the numbers are increasing significantly; and where there is insufficient evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking in persons, or have committed to take action over the next year.

In the meantime, Greig Smith of the Office of the Children's Registry told the Sunday Observer that, while they are embarking on different public education campaigns to raise the level of awareness about the issue, parental supervision and monitoring are critical to minimising the risk of a child being trafficked.

"It goes back to parental supervision, basic parenting skills, as well as even if it's not a parent, it might be a guardian, but just ensuring that you keep close tabs on your child," Palmer-Hamilton added.

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