Jamaica is a source, transit, and destination country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Jamaican children subjected to sex trafficking in Jamaica’s sex trade remains a serious problem. Sex trafficking of children and adults occurs on streets and in night clubs, bars, and private homes throughout Jamaica, including in resort towns. Traffickers in massage parlors in Jamaica lure women into prostitution under the false pretense of employment as massage therapists and then withhold their wages and restrict their movement. People living in Jamaica’s poverty-stricken garrison communities, territories ruled by criminal “dons” effectively outside of the government’s control, are especially at risk. NGOs express concern that children from poor families sent to wealthier families or local “dons” with the intent of a chance at a better life are highly vulnerable to prostitution and forced labor, including domestic servitude. Other at-risk children include those working in the informal sector, such as on farms or in street vending, begging, markets, and shops. An alarmingly high number of children are reported missing in Jamaica; some of these children are likely subjected to forced labor or sex trafficking. Foreign nationals are subjected to forced labor in Jamaica and aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels operating in Jamaican waters. Numerous sources report that Jamaican citizens have been subjected to sex trafficking or forced labor abroad, including throughout the Caribbean, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
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. In 2013, the government implemented amendments to strengthen Jamaica’s anti-trafficking law. Despite these efforts, the government did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous reporting period; therefore, Jamaica is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. For a fifth consecutive year, the government did not convict trafficking offenders or officials complicit in human trafficking and took insufficient action to address reports of official complicity. The government identified few Jamaican trafficking victims and failed to provide many of them with adequate assistance.
Recommendations for Jamaica:
Vigorously prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenders, including officials complicit in forced labor or sex trafficking; identify and assist more victims of forced labor and sex trafficking, including prostituted Jamaican children; implement government-wide standard operating procedures to guide police, labor inspectors, child welfare officials, and health workers in the proactive identification of local, as well as foreign, victims of forced labor and sex trafficking—including children under age 18 in prostitution in night clubs, bars, and massage parlors; implement procedures to refer victims to adequate service providers; train officials on the fundamental principles of international human trafficking law, including that movement of a victim is not necessary for trafficking to occur; and use the government shelter in cooperation with NGOs to provide a safe and welcoming place for Jamaican children under 18 subjected to prostitution and other trafficking victims that need protection.
The government made progress on strengthening Jamaica’s anti-trafficking law, but this development was eclipsed by a continued lack of trafficking convictions and serious concerns about official complicity. The government prohibits all forms of trafficking through its comprehensive Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression and Punishment) Act, which went into effect in 2007. In August 2013, the government enacted amendments to the act to increase the maximum sentence for trafficking crimes from 10 to 30 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and appear to be commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes. The amendments contain other positive elements, including a requirement that convicted trafficking offenders pay restitution to victims.
While Jamaica’s legal structure against human trafficking was sufficient, there continued to be no results; the government did not convict any trafficking offenders in this reporting period or in the previous five years. Authorities reportedly arrested seven individuals for suspected human trafficking crimes and initiated four prosecutions in 2013, compared with two prosecutions initiated in 2012. The government continued four prosecutions of human trafficking offenses carried over from previous reporting periods. No government officials were prosecuted or convicted for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses, though allegations persisted from previous reporting periods that some Jamaican police officers were complicit in prostitution rings, some of which were suspected of recruiting children under 18 and coercing adults into the sex trade.
Beginning in 2014, police funded an anti-trafficking module—designed and implemented by the police’s lead human trafficking investigator—as part of the basic curriculum for all new recruits. In January 2014, the Justice Ministry ran a three-day anti-trafficking training seminar for 88 prosecutors, justices of the peace, and judges. The government also provided in-kind support to IOM-led capacity building and technical skills training workshops for government officials.
The government made minimal efforts to protect trafficking victims. Authorities identified 14 confirmed and suspected victims including at least two suspected forced labor victims and eight sex trafficking victims, compared with 23 suspected victims of trafficking in the previous reporting period. The government’s trafficking shelter, which could house 12 people, assisted only one person—a child forced labor victim—during the reporting period. The child did not attend school, but was provided guided instruction through a web-based curriculum commonly used in Jamaican schools. Government agencies and NGOs that did not receive government funding assisted the other victims. Jamaican anti-trafficking police reportedly had a protocol to refer suspected victims to services, but the small number of trafficking victims identified and referred to care raised concerns that many front-line responders, such as other law enforcement officers, child protection officials, labor officials, and health workers, did not adhere to standard operating procedures for the proactive identification of human trafficking victims and their referral for assistance.
In alignment with Jamaica’s anti-trafficking law, the government provided formal guidance for immigration officials not to deport foreign victims. The government provided temporary immigration relief to one foreign victim, compared with 21 foreign victims during the reporting period. Jamaican officials reportedly encouraged trafficking victims to participate in the prosecutions of trafficking offenders, and the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression and Punishment) Act guaranteed that trafficking victims were immune from prosecution for immigration or prostitution violations committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. There were no allegations of victims being punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking during the reporting period.
The government demonstrated some efforts to raise awareness of human trafficking, but did not conduct a comprehensive sex trafficking or forced labor awareness raising campaign. Jamaica has a national anti-trafficking plan through 2015. A government-operated general crime victim hotline continued to provide specialized assistance to persons reporting human trafficking; it fielded an unknown number of calls related to human trafficking during the past year. The government did not report any child sex tourism investigations or efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, child sex tourism, or forced labor.