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Jamaica (Tier 2)

The Government of Jamaica does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Jamaica remained on Tier 2. These efforts included identifying more victims, including survivors of labor trafficking; formally launching a national referral mechanism (NRM) for child victims; expanding training for officials on victim identification and referral; opening a child-friendly space for interviewing and providing immediate assistance to child victims; and making arrests for the illegal operation of private employment agencies. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Convicted traffickers received suspended prison sentences and fines, penalties that were not on par with the severity of their crimes. Unlike last year, no victims were awarded restitution. The government did not provide adequate funding for trafficking victim protection services. Although the government provided some training for law enforcement and criminal justice officials, these efforts were ad hoc, and the government did not provide consistent, standardized anti-trafficking training for officials.

  • Fully implement the screening tools and NRM to increase proactive identification and referral of suspected trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, and provide consistent training for officials on implementing these tools.
  • Increase efforts to provide more victims, whether identified in Jamaica or repatriated from abroad, with comprehensive services, including legal, medical, psycho-social, shelter, case management, educational/vocational, and reintegration assistance, for the full length of any legal proceedings.
  • Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including officials who are complicit in human trafficking and foreign tourists or Jamaicans who exploit child sex trafficking victims.
  • Strengthen and institutionalize training on human trafficking and victim-centered procedures for police, prosecutors, and judges and assign cases to trained personnel.
  • Amend the anti-trafficking law to prescribe penalties for sex trafficking that are commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes by increasing the available maximum imprisonment term.
  • Screen Cuban medical professionals for indicators of human trafficking and refer potential victims to service providers for assistance.
  • Allow adult victims greater independence to make informed choices about their own security needs and do not impose restriction of movement on adult victims while in the government’s care.
  • Provide all victims with the necessary long-term protection and reintegration assistance to safely transition to living outside shelters.
  • Strengthen the role of government or NGO service providers when conducting victim interviews, formally identifying victims, and assessing victims’ needs.
  • Allow authorities and the public to refer all potential victims directly to government or NGO service providers and make victims eligible to receive formal identification and trafficking-related services, without police referral.
  • Increase funding and human resources to ministries, departments, and agencies responsible for trafficking victim protection services.
  • Allocate sufficient resources to the Office of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons (ONRTIP) to conduct an independent assessment of the government’s victim identification efforts, including systematic implementation of the screening tools and NRM.

The government slightly increased law enforcement efforts but failed to impose stringent penalties on convicted traffickers. The government criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking through its Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression, and Punishment) Act. The government passed amendments to this law that removed the option of monetary fines in lieu of imprisonment as a penalty for convicted traffickers; these changes came into effect in November 2021. The amended legislation prescribes penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment for offenses involving an adult victim and up to 30 years’ imprisonment for those involving a child victim. These penalties were sufficiently stringent; however, with respect to sex trafficking, by prescribing a lower maximum imprisonment term, these penalties were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. The 2021 amendments made corresponding changes to the Child Care and Protection Act, removing the option of fines as penalties for child trafficking crimes defined in section 10 of that law.

Officials investigated 53 potential trafficking cases, 51 involving sex trafficking and two involving forced labor, compared with 43 potential cases, 42 for sex trafficking and one for forced labor, investigated in the previous reporting period. Authorities prosecuted four sex trafficking suspects and convicted two sex traffickers, a slight increase from three suspects prosecuted and one sex trafficker convicted during the previous reporting period. Both convictions were from a retrial of a 2010 child sex trafficking case that had resulted in a hung jury—prior to amendments to Jamaica’s anti-trafficking law that directed such cases be tried by a judge rather than a jury. Authorities negotiated a plea bargain, and the traffickers each received a three-year suspended prison sentence and were ordered to pay fines. Unlike last year, courts did not order convicted traffickers to pay restitution to any victims. The slow pace at which cases moved through the courts hampered efforts to hold traffickers criminally accountable and deterred victims from serving as witnesses. The government did not report investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees suspected of complicity in trafficking offenses. Endemic corruption and complicity, including within law enforcement, remained significant obstacles to anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts.

The government maintained a specialized police unit with island-wide jurisdiction to investigate human trafficking and vice crimes, as well as a team of prosecutors specialized in human rights, intellectual property, and sexual offenses. Anti-trafficking police conducted 36 surveillance operations of locations believed to be high-risk for trafficking, including truck stops, construction sites, and resorts; independently initiated 25 investigations; and investigated 28 suspected cases referred from other agencies. The pandemic constrained law enforcement efforts, as high infection rates among officers created staffing shortages and caused disruptions in investigations. Police reportedly screened for victims of trafficking during raids on venues where commercial sex occurred, although it was unclear whether these operations were effective in identifying victims. Some individual judges had specialized trafficking experience, but there was no mechanism to assign trafficking cases to these judges. Though courts generally remained open, pandemic-related infections caused staffing shortages, and some courts briefly suspended operations following suspected outbreaks of the virus. The government’s training efforts for law enforcement and criminal justice officials continued to be ad-hoc and largely dependent on foreign donors, rather than sustained year-to-year through consistent government delivery mechanisms. Jamaican police apprehended a Canadian man wanted in Canada for sex trafficking and other crimes; the government extradited the suspect to Canada where he was indicted on numerous charges. The government reported police continued to cooperate with law enforcement in the Cayman Islands on a suspected case of child trafficking, and authorities engaged with officials from the Bahamas and India regarding cases in progress in Bahamian and Jamaican courts.

The government maintained efforts to protect victims; while it strengthened policies and procedures for identifying and assisting victims, it provided few details about services provided to victims identified during the year. The government formally identified 10 trafficking victims, a slight increase from eight victims identified during the previous reporting period. Identified victims included six Jamaican girls and one Jamaican woman, who were survivors of sex trafficking, and three Colombian men, who were survivors of forced labor. The government did not report whether it referred any victims to government-run shelters or other forms of lodging. During the previous reporting period, the government referred three victims to government shelters. The government reported providing all identified victims with care and services that may have included accommodation, food and clothing, medical care, counseling and psycho-social support, legal and immigration assistance, training and educational support, or employment assistance, but it did not provide additional details on the specific services provided or the scope and duration of this assistance. The government did not report funding for protection and assistance to victims, which had decreased significantly in the previous reporting period. Local experts reported the government likely provided shelter or other services to some child trafficking victims it did not formally identify and classified them as victims of other crimes.

The Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) launched a new three-digit hotline replacing its previous number for reporting cases of child abuse, including human trafficking, and it expanded the hotline’s operations to 24 hours per day, seven days per week, including public holidays. To respond to conditions imposed by the pandemic, CPFSA provided hotline personnel the necessary equipment to operate the hotline while working remotely and hired additional staff to sustain the hotline’s expanded hours. CPFSA identified 25 cases of suspected child trafficking, including 14 through calls to its hotline, and referred all 25 cases to the specialized police unit for investigation. In addition, the Office of the Children’s Advocate launched a 24 hours per day, seven days per week phone line and messaging platform to provide immediate psycho-social support directly to children. Authorities reported one suspected trafficking victim contacted the helpline but disengaged before authorities could make a referral.

The government continued to use its 2013 victim management guidelines and several ministry-specific SOPs for identifying victims, but these tools were not comprehensive, and local experts could not verify how consistently officials applied them. Police reported screening for indicators of trafficking among individuals arrested for “prostitution”-related violations but did not identify victims through this method. In December 2021, the government officially launched and began standardized implementation of a set of tools, developed in partnership with an NGO during the previous reporting period, to strengthen victim identification and referral procedures for child victims. These resources included ministry-specific screening tools to guide officials in assessing behavioral, situational, health, and other factors to identify potential child trafficking victims among vulnerable groups; victim intake and case management forms; and an NRM to standardize procedures for victim referral and management of care. CPFSA established an internal technical advisory committee that oversaw efforts to pilot the screening tools and NRM, including through training to 83 child protection staff. The government held numerous training sessions on identifying and referring child trafficking victims using the NRM, reaching more than 300 customs officers, labor officials, justices of the peace, NGO staff, and tourism industry professionals. Also, in December 2021, the government launched a new human trafficking handbook (developed with technical assistance from an NGO) to improve anti-trafficking knowledge and expertise across government sectors. The handbook was disseminated across various ministries and made available online. The NRM established a stronger role for service providers in conducting needs assessments and providing case management to child victims; however, it continued to require all reports of suspected trafficking to go through the JCF’s anti-trafficking and vice crimes unit for formal identification and investigation. The government reported contracting Cuban medical professionals during the year, but authorities did not acknowledge these workers as being at high risk for forced labor, despite ongoing concerns by international experts that the Government of Cuba may have compelled some of them to work.

JCF, NATFATIP, and in the case of child victims, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) worked in consultation to arrange accommodation and other services to formally-identified victims on a case-by-case basis. In March 2022, the government opened a new child-friendly space for interviewing and assisting child victims, operated by the JCF’s Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) in Trelawny Parish. This multidisciplinary space, developed with donor funding and technical assistance from an NGO, was designed to provide child victims with a safe and private location to access immediate law enforcement and medical attention, as well as referral to additional services in a trauma-informed setting. NATFATIP operated a shelter exclusively for trafficking victims, which could accommodate 12 female victims, and arranged private lodging for some victims, including men; in addition, authorities could place child victims in CPFSA facilities or female victims in NGO-operated shelters that were not exclusive to trafficking victims. The government did not report how many victims received services in government shelters. As part of a new initiative, CPFSA collaborated with an NGO to provide training on trauma-informed care to 60 potential foster parents. The government reported adult victims had the option of residing in the government’s specialized shelter or in private accommodation; in practice, however, authorities limited some victims’ options based on an independent police assessment of the victim’s security risks. Authorities placed victims deemed to be at high risk in private accommodations, guarded by police, and they were unable to move freely. The government closely monitored, and sometimes restricted, victims’ movement while residing in the specialized shelter. These high security measures may have re-traumatized some victims. CPFSA had a protocol for providing services to child trafficking victims under the agency’s care, and the government had victim management guidelines for facilities that provided care to victims of trafficking in Jamaica.

The government took measures to adapt protection services during the pandemic, including through providing staff and victims in government facilities with personal protective equipment and designating quarantine and isolation areas in all residential facilities for children. Nonetheless, because of the pandemic’s constraints on space and resources, child victims’ placement into shelters was sometimes delayed, and transfers of children into foster care or reintegration with their families may have been completed prematurely. Some facilities struggled to maintain adequate stock of food and supplies.

The government provided few long-term services to support victims’ reintegration, prevent re-exploitation, or sustain protection throughout the duration of lengthy court cases. The government continued to fund training for a Haitian woman who has been a resident of the NATFATIP shelter since 2013, but authorities did not take steps to assist her in safely transitioning to long-term independence outside the shelter. Foreign victims were able to access the same services as Jamaican victims. The government did not have a formal policy to provide residency to foreign victims who faced hardship or retribution upon return to their home countries, but authorities could provide this assistance to victims on a case-by-case basis. No victims received residency during the reporting period. The government repatriated three Colombian victims.

The Ministry of Justice’s Victim Service Division (VSD) offered court orientation sessions for victims participating in the judicial process, including children, and officers from VSD or CPFSA accompanied victims testifying in court. The government provided witness protection services to three victims. In certain instances, justice officials permitted victims to provide testimony through video or written statements, and authorities reported using a system of referral documents to minimize the need for victims to recount the details of their experiences. However, the government did not allocate adequate human or financial resources to provide victims with sustained support during legal processes, and authorities did not always employ victim-centered procedures. Years-long court cases, re-traumatization during the criminal justice process, and fear of reprisal further disincentivized victims from reporting cases or participating in trials. The government reported several ministries coordinated to assist a Jamaican victim to provide witness testimony in a case in Bahamian court.

Jamaica’s anti-trafficking law directed the court to order restitution to victims, but unlike last year, courts did not order any convicted traffickers to pay restitution to victims. Jamaican law protected trafficking victims from prosecution for immigration or prostitution-related offenses traffickers compelled them to commit, but it did not provide immunity for other unlawful acts traffickers may have compelled victims to commit. Due to inadequate screening for indicators of potential trafficking among vulnerable populations, including children apprehended for gang-related criminal activity, authorities may have penalized some victims. In February 2022, authorities shot and killed a 15-year-old boy when he attempted to escape the juvenile facility where he was in custody for his involvement in a 2021 robbery; in news reports, the boy’s family has alleged that he was forced at gunpoint to participate in the robbery.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. NATFATIP, which was chaired by the Ministry of National Security and included representatives from relevant government institutions and select NGOs, met bi-monthly to coordinate implementation of the 2018-2021 national action plan. The government drafted updates that would extend the plan through May 2023 and submitted it for cabinet approval. The government did not provide updates on the status of a draft national policy to combat trafficking in persons developed during the previous reporting period. NATFATIP conducted educational sessions for 150 parents, teachers, and students at high schools, and it partnered with a media company to expand its awareness campaigns for the public through radio, television, and print media. Public officials utilized television, radio, newspaper, social media, and other online platforms to disseminate messages on the risks of human trafficking—including pandemic-related trends—and encourage the public to identify and report suspected cases.

The government did not share information on the amount of funding it provided to NATFATIP or on amounts from individual ministries’ budgets used to fund anti-trafficking activities. Officials reported the pandemic strained government resources and reduced revenue, resulting in decreased funding for anti-trafficking efforts. In the previous reporting period, the government decreased its funding for NATFATIP by nearly 75 percent. NATFATIP maintained a database to collect information on traffickers and victims provided in monthly reports from its member institutions, and ONRTIP provided independent oversight of the government’s anti-trafficking efforts. ONRTIP has reported shortcomings in data entry and insufficient access to the data across government sectors. During the year, a number of key government institutions signed an MOU on data sharing to allow more timely and comprehensive access to data on anti-trafficking efforts. The government did not use information from the database to support development of its policy and programming.

The Employment Agencies Regulation Act set guidelines for the licensing of employment agencies and prohibited charging some workers recruitment fees, but this only applied to participants in overseas programs in which host governments had prohibited such fees. Separate laws prohibited fraudulent recruitment practices such as contract switching. Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MLSS) officials coordinated with police to investigate private employment agencies suspected of operating illegally, leading to the arrest of five individuals whose cases were in progress at the close of the reporting period. MLSS conducted pre-departure orientation sessions for migrant workers in the hospitality and agricultural sectors in the United States and Canada, reaching more than 12,000 individuals during the year; these sessions included information on types of human trafficking, identifying and avoiding potential risks, and who to contact for assistance. The government maintained liaison officers in Canada, under the auspices of a bilateral MOU, to protect the interests of overseas workers. These officials were available to workers 24 hours per day, seven days per week, but the government did not report whether they made efforts to prevent trafficking. The government operated a liaison service in the United States, but only certain groups of Jamaican temporary workers were eligible for this assistance. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of foreign tourists for the purchase of commercial sex acts from child trafficking victims. The government reported it conducted awareness-raising activities on the criminal penalties for purchasing commercial sex acts to deter potential buyers, including foreign tourists, and held training sessions on human trafficking within the tourism sector for industry stakeholders.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Jamaica, and traffickers exploit victims from Jamaica abroad. Sex trafficking of Jamaican women and children, including boys, reportedly occurs on streets and in nightclubs, bars, massage parlors, hotels, and private homes, including in resort towns. Local observers believe sex trafficking operations have become more clandestine as a result of the pandemic. Traffickers increasingly use social media platforms and false job offers to recruit victims; local experts report the pandemic has accelerated this trend, as traffickers have adapted by seeking methods to recruit individuals, especially children, in their own homes. Communities vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor include young women and children from poor households, child victims of sexual abuse, LGBTQI+ youth experiencing homelessness, residents of Jamaica’s poverty-stricken areas effectively controlled by criminal “dons,” migrant workers, and workers in the informal sector, particularly on family farms and in markets and shops. Traffickers subject children and adults to forced begging and women and children to domestic servitude. Girls, sometimes coerced by family members, are subjected to sex trafficking by men who provide monetary or material payment to the girls or their families in exchange for sex acts; local observers report this form of child sex trafficking may be widespread in some communities. Many LGBTQI+ children face persecution and bullying in their homes or communities; those who flee these abusive conditions are highly vulnerable to sex trafficking. Children from rural Jamaica, and possibly from other Caribbean countries, who are sent to live with more affluent family members or acquaintances sometimes become exploited in forced labor in private households, markets, or shops. Gang members may exploit children in forced begging or in forced criminal activity including as lookouts, armed gunmen, or couriers of weapons and drugs; there were reports that criminal organizations exploited children in forced criminal activity in lotto-scamming. Local observers identified increased risks of forced criminal activity for boys during the pandemic. Many children are reported missing in Jamaica; traffickers exploit some of these children in forced labor or sex trafficking.

Traffickers have exploited Jamaican individuals in sex trafficking and forced labor abroad, including in other Caribbean countries, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. NGOs and government officials report poverty-stricken families, or parents of children with behavioral problems, often send children to live with relatives or acquaintances overseas in order to access additional opportunities or to avoid the juvenile justice system; some of these children become victims of sex trafficking or forced labor, including domestic servitude. Jamaican women have reported being charged high recruitment fees, misled about their terms of employment, and compelled through threats to continue working in the United States’ hospitality industry. Traffickers exploit foreign nationals, including migrants from South and East Asia, in forced labor and sex trafficking in Jamaica. There have been reports of forced labor of foreign nationals aboard foreign-flagged fishing vessels operating in Jamaican waters. Among the Cuban medical professionals the government contracted, some may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. NGOs and other local observers report children are subjected to sex trafficking in Jamaica’s resort areas frequented by tourists. Endemic corruption and complicity, including within law enforcement, remain significant obstacles to anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts.

U.S. Department of State

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