No evidence J'can police involved in human trafficking
Expert scientist challenges claim in US State Department reportSunday, August 01, 2021
BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Renowned migration and human trafficking consultant researcher Dr Cleophas Justine Pierre says he is waiting on the United States (US) State Department to “reveal the data that they claim to have” to support their assertion that some Jamaican police “allegedly facilitated or participated in sex trafficking”.
The State Department, which made the claim in its 2021 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, said Jamaica would continue to be ranked at Tier 2, meaning that the Jamaican Government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.
The stance was a repeat of the one Washington took in its 2020 report in which the Americans, among other things, maintained that “there were no investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offences”, although “the Government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period”.
The State Department further said informal information from survivors indicated that police officers were complicit in sex trafficking operations disguised as massage parlours.
Speaking with the Jamaica Observer last Thursday, Dr Pierre — a director of research and business development at Dunn, Pierre, Barnett and Company Canada Limited and the lead researcher on the Cariforum/Caricom Human Trafficking research project — said whatever other illegal activities some Jamaican cops might be mixed up in, trafficking in persons is not one of them as far as data collected over the years from dons, victims and traffickers in the underbelly of the dastardly scheme have shown.
“As an association we conducted one of the largest human trafficking and migration study in the Caribbean region. We have written many articles on the subject and have looked at the roots, we looked at the trends, we spoke to human traffickers, we spoke to the Johns (slang for prostitutes' clients or pimps) and have seen the stables, we spoke to the victims,” Dr Pierre said.
He said having conducting interviews with a range of individuals, including the dons in Jamaica, police officers, Government officials and individuals within Jamaica's Ministry of National Security, researchers “found no evidence to corroborate the claims of police involvement in human trafficking in Jamaica”.
“Although the data show that there some elements of police involvement in certain crime, human trafficking is not one of them. From our data on smuggling in the Caribbean region, we are also aware of some police involved in lottery scam, guns for hire, and stuff like that. In other countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, we have data suggesting that there is evidence of police involvement in human trafficking, but in Jamaica this was not the case,” he said.
“I am not saying that all police are bad or good, we are saying that from our data set with regard to police involvement in human trafficking activities in Jamaica we have not seen that,” Dr Pierre insisted.
He said attempts to secure an interview with the US State Department so far have borne no fruit.
“I am waiting for the US State Department to reveal the data that they claim to have,” he said, noting that from interacting with a desk researcher who compiled the TIP report in 2019, it was revealed that some of the information collected is gathered through administrative data and other third party sources.
“We would like to know where they got that information from. We need to know, so we can follow the evidence. We looked at every article in the US TIP 2018 report on Jamaica and some of the claims made in the report could not stand up to scrutiny. We have done an analysis of every country in the Caribbean using indicators and in all our measurements Jamaica had the highest points. It means that Jamaica is one of the countries making the most progress. We are on the ground, we did the studies. When we asked them if they went on the ground, they did not,” Dr Pierre added.
Their inability to come up with the evidence to support that claim over the years, he said, “is tragic”.
“We find that Jamaica every year has improved its standing. They [the USA] have made their allegations without any basis and that's my issue as a scientist because everything you do as a scientist has to be measured and we could not do that. In my opinion as a researcher, Jamaica is the best in the region. In my analysis, Jamaica should be tier one.
“We have the largest dataset of human traffickers in the region. Trinidad, Dominican Republic, Haiti but not in Jamaica. We have done the work, we know what is on the ground,” he stated.
In a critique of the 2019 US TIP Report for Jamaica which returned the island to a tier two ranking, Dr Pierre said more thorough checks should be made to ensure accuracy of the information which is used to form the basis of a ranking, which has major implications for Jamaica. This, he said, could be achieved by simply reverifying information received by doing direct consultations.
Since the establishment in 2006 of a dedicated unit within the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime arm of the Jamaica Constabulary Force to deal with the investigation of trafficking in persons, 108 individuals have been rescued with eight convictions so far secured by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, which has a special unit dedicated to dealing with cases involving sexual offences and trafficking in persons. There are currently 16 matters being tried before the courts with 24 traffickers.
In a 2020 study, the research team led by Dr Pierre concluded that the human trafficking and migrant smuggling industry is becoming one of the fastest-growing industries in the region, especially in Venezuela, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Colombia, employing an estimated 176,000 people, impacting 11 economic sectors with Venezuela being the epicentre for human trafficking, and Haiti and Venezuela the epicentres of migrant smuggling.
According to researchers, the demand for sex is behind the thriving industry. Among the countries where there is a high demand for sex are Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago.
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