Jamaica remains at Tier 2 in the latest Global Trafficking in Persons Report, published by the US Department of State.
A stagnant Tier 2 ranking would suggest the government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The 2023 Global Trafficking in Persons Report indicates that the Jamaican government has demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity.
According to the US State Department report, “these efforts included investigating, prosecuting and convicting more traffickers along with the implementing of a screening tool and a national referral mechanism for child victims.”
The report cites an expansion of training for criminal justice officials and victim service providers along with the opening of three child-friendly spaces for interviewing and providing immediate assistance to juvenile victims.
Lingering concerns documented
The report highlights that despite continued reports that gangs compelled some children to commit unlawful acts, authorities still detained and arrested children for gang-related criminal activity without screening for indicators of trafficking.
The document makes reference to reports from the Office of the Children’s Advocate, which itself pointed to systemic failures and individual misconduct within Jamaica’s child protection system that left children and young adults in state care at risk of re-victimisation.
One recommendation from the report is that the government fully implement screening tools to increase proactive identification and referral of potential trafficking victims among vulnerable groups and that there also should be consistent training for officials on implementing these tools. The report calls for increased efforts to provide more victims, whether identified in Jamaica or repatriated from abroad, with comprehensive services.
There should also be an increase in efforts to investigate and prosecute traffickers, including officials who are complicit in human trafficking and foreign tourists or Jamaicans who exploit child sex trafficking victims. The report recommends that adequate penalties for convicted traffickers should involve significant prison terms.
Combatting transnational trafficking
The report notes that as human trafficking often occurs transnationally, international partnership is key to effectively identifying victims and prosecuting the perpetrators. This is so whether it be detecting victims during border crossings, identifying overseas workers exploited in forced labour, or repatriating victims caught without identification.
The report points to the importance of “cooperation between source, transit, and destination countries’ governments and law enforcement, as well as with NGOs, international organisations, and the private sector, is key to preventing, identifying, and prosecuting transnational human trafficking cases. Identifying and ensuring protection services, policies, and laws that protect foreign national victims from being removed from countries, and instead helping them integrate, also often requires coordination amongst a variety of stakeholders.”
Government agencies, the report advocates, should join forces with local NGOs and survivor-led organisations with expertise in addressing victims’ overall needs and well-being in a safe, timely, and trauma-informed manner, and in helping victims by providing comprehensive services such as establishing residence in a new country when needed or supporting victims’ repatriation.
In his forward to the report, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken writes, “this year’s Trafficking in Persons Report provides a comprehensive overview of the state of human trafficking around the world and the tools we are using to strengthen our response and coordination. It also highlights the stories of survivors, emerging tactics—like cyber scam operations—used by traffickers and provides recommendations for how we can better work together to address this crime.”
He said the report is the product of the hard work and dedication of countless individuals and organisations around the world, who are engaged in the fight against human trafficking sometimes at great personal risk.