US fingers JA for human trafficking

A new United States report has placed Jamaica on its Tier Two Watch List for Trafficking in Persons, an improvement from the bottom-place ranking it received last year, but still warned Government to do more to protect vulnerable groups.

This means that, while the Jamaican Government has made some efforts to combat human trafficking, it has not fully complied with the minimum U.S. standards for the elimination of the activity described as modern-day slavery, reports the Jamaica Gleaner.

The U.S. Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Department, which issued the report, described Jamaica as a source country for men, women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and labour.

“The report, mandated by law, is intended to raise global awareness of the problem, underscore the growing efforts of the international community to combat human trafficking, and encourage nations around the world to take effective actions against this abuse,” said U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Brenda LaGrange Johnson.

According to the U.S., while the Jamaican Government has made significant efforts to combat human trafficking, it has not fully complied with the minimum standards for the elimination of the illegal activity.

In last year’s report, Jamaica was downgraded from the Tier Two Watch List to Tier Three, the lowest rank on the three-tier system.

However, the country was upgraded to the Tier Two Watch List in October last year and narrowly escaped economic sanctions, which apply to Tier Three countries.

In a live broadcast via the Internet shortly after noon yesterday, Ambassador John Miller, senior adviser on trafficking in persons to U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, warned that countries like Jamaica that are on the Tier Two Watch List are in a danger zone.

“The Government that is on the Watch List is barely on Tier Two. The ‘W’ not only stands for Watch, it stands for Worry. It stands for Warning,” he cautioned during the webcast which lasted for just over a half hour. “Any Government certainly without significant efforts in the coming year will fall to Tier Three. This has to be a source of concern.”

Human trafficking has been defined as the movement of people from one place to another by the use of force, coercion or deception for means of exploitation. Approximately 800 million people are trafficked within countries and across borders worldwide.

According to the 2006 Human Trafficking Report, “Information from international organisations and embassies in Jamaica suggests that women from the Dominican Republic and Eastern Europe are trafficked to Jamaica for sexual exploitation. Women and children are also internally trafficked from rural to urban and tourist areas for sexual exploitation.”

The U.S. has blamed corrupt law enforcement officials for this lack of progress.

Dr. Glenda Simms, consultant on women’s affairs, yesterday agreed that Jamaica’s Tier Two ranking is cause for concern.

However, she says it is encouraging that Attorney-General, A.J. Nicholson has publicly acknowledged that trafficking in persons is an issue in Jamaica.

“I am particularly concerned that it is still women and girls who are being trafficked almost exclusively for sexual purposes. It is up to us as a country to ensure that it stops!” Dr. Simms stated.

Meanwhile, the Government, which has since last year increased efforts to make the public aware of human trafficking, says it will be advancing legislation to address the issue. Information Minister Senator Colin Campbell made the disclosure yesterday shortly after the report was released.

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