Human trafficking in Jamaica
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Jamaica is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor. The majority of victims are poor Jamaican women and girls, and increasingly boys, who are trafficked from rural to urban and tourist areas for commercial sexual exploitation. Victims are typically recruited by family members or newspaper advertisements promoting work as spa attendants, masseuses, or dancers; after being recruited, however, victims are coerced into prostitution. Jamaican children also may be subjected to conditions of forced labor as domestic servants. Sex tourism in resort areas has been identified as a problem. Some trafficking of women from the Dominican Republic, Russia, and Eastern Europe into Jamaica’s sex trade has been reported. Some Jamaican women and girls have been trafficked to Canada, the United States, the Bahamas, and other Caribbean destinations for commercial sexual exploitation.
The Government of Jamaica does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government increased activities to prevent human trafficking, but its efforts to punish traffickers and assist victims remained inadequate.
The Government of Jamaica maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period, but did not punish any trafficking offenders. Legislatively, the government prohibits all forms of trafficking through its comprehensive Trafficking in Persons Act, which became effective on March 1, 2007, and which prescribes penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment, penalties that are sufficiently stringent. This law also prohibits 25person’s passport as a means of keeping an individual in labor or service. During the reporting period, the government charged four suspects with trafficking under its new law; these cases remain pending, in addition to six prosecutions from the previous year. The government did not convict or sentence any traffickers during the reporting period. The government also dedicated six police officers to the National Task Force against Trafficking in Persons, an interagency body that coordinates anti-trafficking activities, and reconstituted the organized-crime division of its police force to focus more attention on human trafficking crimes. A vetted police Airport Interdiction Task Force, created through a memorandum of understanding between Jamaica and the United States in 2005, investigates cases of drug trafficking and human trafficking at ports of entry. In conjunction with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a large number of police, consular, and judicial officials received anti-trafficking training. No reports of official complicity with human trafficking were received in 2007.
During the reporting period, the government showed limited efforts to provide victims with access to medical, psychological, legal, and witness protection services. Specialized shelters for trafficking victims, especially for victims of commercial sexual exploitation, remain unavailable, although child trafficking victims have access to generalized government shelters for care. Shelter services for adult victims remain lacking, although adult victims are sometimes housed in hotels or other temporary facilities. Pursuant to its anti-trafficking statute, Jamaican authorities encourage victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers. Victims are not penalized for immigration violations or other unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked. Jamaica provides temporary residency for foreign trafficking victims and other legal alternatives to deportation to countries where victims would face hardship or retribution. In 2007, the government assisted IOM’s repatriation of a trafficking victim from Burma who was exploited for five years as a domestic servant.
The government increased anti-trafficking prevention activities during the reporting period. Government officials condemned human trafficking in public statements and presentations, in addition to warning more than 250 students about the dangers of human trafficking. Anti-trafficking flyers and materials were disseminated widely. The government also tightened issuance of exotic dancer permits to Jamaican hotel establishments, and eliminated their use in night clubs. Efforts to identify victims of trafficking among holders of these permits were intensified during the reporting period, and the government reduced the total number of permits to eight. Increased government collaboration with Jamaica’s hotel and tourism industry would assist efforts to prevent child sex tourism in resort areas; despite reported sexual exploitation of Jamaican children by foreign tourists, no investigations or prosecutions of such suspected criminal activity were reported by the government. The government made efforts to address demand for commercial sex acts by conducting high-profile raids on hotels and nightclubs.