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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 with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Jamaica remained on Tier 2.  These efforts included investigating, prosecuting, and convicting more traffickers; implementing a screening tool and national referral mechanism (NRM) for child victims; expanding training for criminal justice officials and victim service providers; and opening three child-friendly spaces for interviewing and providing immediate assistance to child victims.  However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas.  Authorities did not identify any adult victims.  Despite continued reports that gangs compelled some children to commit unlawful acts, authorities detained and arrested children for gang-related criminal activity without screening for indicators of trafficking.  The Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) reported systemic failures and individual misconduct within Jamaica’s child protection system that left children and young adults in state care at risk of re-victimization.

  • Fully implement the screening tools and NRM to increase proactive identification and referral of potential trafficking victims among vulnerable groups – to include Cuban overseas workers and children apprehended for gang-related activity – 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 reintegration support and for the full length of any legal proceedings.
  • Increase 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, and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • Increase funding and human resources to ministries, departments, and agencies responsible for trafficking victim protection services, and strengthen capacity-building and risk assessment procedures within the child protection system.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Implement legal or policy changes to enhance law enforcement officials’ ability to classify children subjected to forced criminality as trafficking victims.
  • Increase resources to the Office of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons (ONRTIP) to provide independent monitoring and oversight of the government’s anti-trafficking response.
  • Strengthen systems to collect, share, and analyze integrated case data on suspected and confirmed trafficking cases among relevant stakeholders.
  • Increase collaboration, including funding, with civil society organizations to support protection and prevention efforts at the community level.

The government increased law enforcement efforts.  The government criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking through its Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression, and Punishment) Act.  The law 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.  ONRTIP has recommended legal amendments to more clearly define forced criminal activity as a form of trafficking, in order to strengthen the tools available to criminal justice officials seeking justice for victims of these crimes.

Officials investigated 60 trafficking cases, 55 involving sex trafficking and five involving labor trafficking; in comparison, officials investigated 53 trafficking cases (51 involving sex trafficking and two involving forced labor) in the previous reporting period.  Authorities initiated prosecution of seven suspects (five charged with sex trafficking and two with labor trafficking), an increase from prosecutions of four suspects charged with sex trafficking crimes initiated during the previous reporting period.  Authorities continued prosecution of 24 defendants charged with sex trafficking crimes in previous reporting periods and two defendants charged with labor trafficking crimes in previous reporting periods.  Under the anti-trafficking law, courts convicted one sex trafficker and two labor traffickers and acquitted one suspected sex trafficker; authorities sentenced the sex trafficker to six years and nine months’ imprisonment, one labor trafficker to fifteen years’ imprisonment, and one labor trafficker to either three years’ imprisonment or a fine of 1 million Jamaican dollars ($6,670).  In the latter case, authorities charged the defendant prior to a 2021 amendment to Jamaica’s trafficking law that removed the option of monetary fines in lieu of imprisonment as a penalty for convicted traffickers.  The court ordered one labor trafficker to pay $18,337 in restitution to the victim in this case, though the victim did not receive this payment during the reporting period.    In a child sex trafficking case in which the victim’s father arranged for a United States national to purchase sex acts from the victim, authorities prosecuted and convicted the foreign national for sex crimes against a child and the victim’s father for child protection violations.  The government did not provide sentencing details for the father and the foreign national awaited sentencing at the close of the reporting period.  In comparison, during the previous reporting period authorities convicted two sex traffickers and sentenced them each to a three-year suspended prison sentenced and ordered them to pay fines.  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 any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking crimes.  However, endemic corruption and official complicity, including within law enforcement, remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action during the year.

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, including trafficking.  Anti-trafficking police conducted 30 surveillance operations of locations believed to be high-risk for trafficking; investigated possible sex trafficking crimes in at least half of Jamaica’s 14 parishes; and investigated labor trafficking crimes in St. Ann and St. Mary parishes.  Police reportedly screened for victims of trafficking during raids on venues where commercial sex occurred, but did not report whether they identified victims through these means.  In new prosecutions, authorities prosecuted suspects in courts across the four Parishes of St. Ann, St. James, St. Mary, and Westmoreland.  Some individual judges had specialized trafficking experience, but there was no formal mechanism to assign trafficking cases to these judges.  With technical support from an NGO, the government launched an online, interactive, and on-demand training for criminal justice professionals to strengthen trauma-informed and victim-centered procedures in child trafficking cases.  Permanently hosted by a government training institute, this course strengthened the government’s training efforts for law enforcement which were otherwise largely ad-hoc. Jamaican police cooperated with authorities in Saint Lucia on a suspected trafficking case and immigration officials provided information in a case of two Jamaican nationals possibly exploited in labor trafficking in Guyana.

The government increased efforts to protect victims.  Through proactive screening measures, front-line officials identified and referred to specialized authorities 42 possible child trafficking victims, and the government identified 11 of these children as likely trafficking victims.  This was a slight increase from 10 victims identified during the previous reporting period.  Identified victims included seven girls and one boy exploited in sex trafficking and three girls exploited in labor trafficking, and all were Jamaican.  The government reported referring all 11 victims to services and providing care, including accommodation, counseling and psychosocial support, medical care, educational support, and employment assistance.  The government reported assisting seven child victims in Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA)  residential facilities, including five victims referred in 2022 and two referred in previous years; the government did not provide comparable data from the previous reporting period for comparison.  CPFSA provided medical services to all seven child victims in its care.  It also provided mental health support to four child victims, including diagnostic assessments, psychotherapy, and psychiatric care through a consulting physician.  CPFSA funded tuition for one child survivor to enroll in a private school for remedial support.

The government implemented a set of tools, adopted in 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 across government.  With technical support from an NGO, relevant ministries, departments, and agencies adopted and implemented the victim identification and referral mechanism.  CPFSA, The Ministry of Justice’s Victim Services Division (VSD), and the Jamaican Constabulary Force’s (JCF) anti-trafficking unit incorporated this tool into existing manuals and SOPs for assisting child trafficking victims and trained staff on its implementation.  The Passport, Immigration, and Citizenship Agency (PICA) developed new guidelines, including an interview protocol and referral form, for officials to identify and respond to possible trafficking cases involving children and trained staff on trafficking issues.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade (MFAFT) developed a handbook on human trafficking for diplomatic and consular staff, including criteria for identifying victims.  And the Ministry of Education and Youth developed an anti-trafficking manual to guide school officials, students, and families on addressing child trafficking issues within the education system.

Front-line officials increased efforts to screen for possible child trafficking victims among the vulnerable populations they served.  CPFSA operated a hotline for the public to report child abuse, including trafficking.  By applying the screening tool to identify possible trafficking cases among callers, hotline operators identified and referred 36 possible cases that led to formal identification of seven trafficking victims.  CPFSA applied the screening tool with other vulnerable children it assisted, including child migrants, and VSD screened 16 child victims of crime, though these efforts did not result in victim identification.  Despite notable progress, officials did not effectively screen all vulnerable children, and authorities classified some child sex trafficking victims as victims of other crimes.  Officials made fewer efforts to screen for indicators of trafficking among vulnerable adults.  JCF’s anti-trafficking unit reported screening for trafficking when apprehending vulnerable individuals, including migrants and persons engaged in commercial sex, leading to one investigation of a possible case that was ongoing at the close of the reporting period.  The government contracted Cuban medical and teaching professionals during the year, but authorities did not acknowledge these workers as being at high risk for forced labor or screen for indicators of trafficking, despite ongoing concerns by international experts that the Government of Cuba may have compelled some of them to work.  Non-specialized police did not typically screen for trafficking indicators among vulnerable groups, including children apprehended for gang-related activity.

With technical support from an NGO, the government conducted extensive training and capacity building for CPFSA service providers on identifying, referring, and providing care for child trafficking survivors throughout different stages of the agency’s interactions with victims.  The government collaborated with NGOs to train healthcare workers in St. Catherine on child trafficking and to conduct educational sessions for potential foster families on trauma-informed care for child victims.

The NRM continued a requirement that all reports of suspected trafficking go through the JCF’s anti-trafficking and vice crimes unit for formal identification and investigation, but it established a stronger role for service providers in conducting needs assessments and providing case management to child victims.  JCF, NATFATIP, and in the case of child victims, CPFSA, collaborated to arrange short- or long-term accommodation and other services to victims.  CPFSA developed a care plan for child victims placed in state care, tailored to individual needs and typically including counseling and psycho-social support, educational support, and medical care.  VSD also provided these services to some victims, including adults.  Local experts reported the government likely provided shelter or other services to some child trafficking victims it did not formally identify and classified as victims of other crimes.

In November 2022, the government opened two new child-friendly spaces for interviewing and assisting child victims, operated by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) – an agency responsible for investigative oversight of security forces – in Kingston and Montego Bay.  In January 2023, VSD opened an additional child-friendly space in Port Antonio.  These multidisciplinary spaces, developed with donor funding and technical assistance from an NGO, provided child victims and witnesses 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.  CISOCA continued operating a child-friendly space in Trelawny Parish.  The government reported a CPFSA social worker typically accompanied children to interviews with law enforcement.

NATFATIP operated a shelter exclusively for trafficking victims, which could accommodate 12 female victims, and arranged private lodging for some victims, including men.  CPFSA placed child victims in residential facilities that were not exclusive to trafficking victims.  With NGO support, CPFSA updated one of its facilities to offer additional spaces for child trafficking victims and provided material support to foster and biological families caring for child victims.  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 restricted their ability 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.  In January 2023, Jamaica’s Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) submitted a report to Parliament accusing the head of CPFSA of gross failure to protect children in state care stemming from allegations of sexual misconduct committed by a foreign national against girls and young women in state care.  The report detailed numerous failures by CPFSA, including continuing to partner in the operation of a transitional facility with the donor for three years after becoming aware of his history of inappropriate sexual misconduct with a minor; allowing him liberal access and association with shelter residents; and repeatedly attempting to cover up the allegations and block an investigation.  The government subsequently fired the head of CPFSA and ordered a police investigation into possible criminal charges in the case; however, OCA’s report exposed serious failures in Jamaica’s child protection system and called for extensive capacity building and improved risk assessment in CPFSA’s operations.

Local experts reported the pandemic continued to constrain resources for victim protection; the government redirected funding to address the pandemic, suspended many home visits by social service workers, and delivered services at a slower pace, contributing to wait times and backlogs across protection services.  The government reported spending 5.34 million Jamaican dollars ($35,600) on victim protection services.  It did not report victim protection funding in the previous reporting period, but this year’s allocation was an increase from 2 million Jamaican dollars ($13,330) dedicated two years ago.

The government provided limited long-term services to support victims’ reintegration, prevent re-exploitation, or sustain protection throughout the duration of lengthy court cases, though the NRM addressed the need for reintegration support.  The government continued supporting a survivor who has been a resident of the NATFATIP shelter since 2013, but authorities had yet to support her safe transition 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.

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 assistance to three victims participating in court cases, including airfare, accommodation, and living expenses for an Indian national to return to Jamaica to testify and security, transportation, psychological, and legal support to two Jamaican victims.  The government provided enhanced security to two victims, one Indian national and one Jamaican citizen, to give testimony in court.  In certain instances, justice officials permitted victims to provide testimony through video or written statements, and some child-friendly spaces were equipped with recording technology to streamline child victims’ interviews.  The NRM provided guidelines to avoid re-traumatizing child victims.  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.

Jamaica’s anti-trafficking law directed the court to order restitution to victims, and authorities ordered one convicted labor trafficker to pay a victim restitution.  However, the government did not effectively enforce restitution orders.  Jamaican law protected trafficking victims from prosecution for immigration or commercial sex offenses committed solely as a direct result of being trafficked, but it did not provide immunity for other unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.  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.

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, implement, and evaluate national anti-trafficking efforts.  The government reported its 2018-2021 national action plan, though expired, continued to guide NATFATIP’s activities during the reporting period.  Officials finalized and submitted for cabinet approval a national policy to combat trafficking, which would replace the national action plan, but the government did not approve the policy during the reporting period.

The government reported NATFATIP’s budget was approximately 19 million Jamaican dollars ($126,670), including an estimated 8.7 million Jamaican dollars ($58,000) spent on trafficking awareness and prevention activities.  The government did not report NATFATIP’s funding during the previous reporting period, but this year’s allocation was a significant increase from a much reduced NATFATIP budget of 7 million Jamaican dollars ($46,670) in the first year of the pandemic.  Ministries also funded anti-trafficking activities from their individual budgets.  The government hosted a training workshop on child trafficking prevention for guidance counselors and school administrators, and it conducted awareness-raising activities with students and teachers from 50 public schools.  CPFSA held two webinars, one for parents and caregivers and one for youth, on children’s safety on online platforms.  The government installed nine new billboards in St. Catherine Parish and launched digital billboards in cities in three other parishes.  NATFATIP, JCF, and other agencies held numerous educational sessions for government officials, community organizations, and members of the public.  Public officials utilized television, radio, newspaper, brochures, SMS, social media, and other online platforms to disseminate messages on the risks of human trafficking and encouraging the public to identify and report suspected cases, with some materials available in English and Patois.

ONRTIP maintained an online resource library providing the public with access to a collection of research and other materials on trafficking.  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.

ONRTIP provided independent oversight and reporting on the government’s anti-trafficking response and, together with OCA, worked to protect the rights of trafficking victims and vulnerable children.  OCA’s January 2023 report to Parliament, detailing failures within Jamaica’s child protection system that allegedly allowed for abuse of vulnerable young people, demonstrated the essential function of these independent entities in holding the government accountable.  Experts reported ONRTIP needed greater resources to fulfill its role.

The government operated three hotlines that accepted reports of human trafficking.  CPFSA operated a three-digit hotline for reporting cases of child abuse, including human trafficking, which operated 24 hours a day, seven days per week, including public holidays; the Office of the Children’s Advocate operated a 24 hours per day, seven days per week phone line and messaging platform to provide immediate psycho-social support directly to children; and police operated a 24 hour emergency line.  The government reported identifying seven child victims and initiating 36 investigations from calls to the CPFSA hotline.

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, but did not report whether they uncovered illegal practices during the year.  MLSS conducted pre-departure orientation sessions for migrant workers in the hospitality and agricultural sectors in the United States and Canadaproviding information on types of human trafficking, identifying and avoiding potential risks, and who to contact for assistance.  The Ministry of Planning held informational sessions on human trafficking for 172 individuals involved in recruitment for overseas work programs.  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 twenty-four hours a day and seven days a 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 categories of Jamaican temporary workers were eligible for this assistance, leaving more than half of all Jamaican temporary workers in the United States ineligible.  In September 2022, MLSS appointed a fact-finding team to investigate allegations of abusive working conditions for Jamaican temporary workers on Canadian farms.  Media reports indicated the government found working conditions to be “satisfactory”, and some workers publicly denounced the credibility of the government’s findings.  The government mobilized hundreds of social workers and youth workers in a door-to-door effort to identify, locate, and reengage school students who became unaccounted for during the pandemic; as of December 2022, more than 3,000 students remained unaccounted for, placing them at high risk of trafficking.  In March 2023, authorities convicted a United States national for sex crimes committed against a child and the child’s father for child protection violations, in a child sex trafficking case facilitated by the victim’s father.  The government participated in a program with authorities in the United States to limit the entry into Jamaica of sex offenders convicted in the United States.  The government reported denying entry into Jamaica to five sex offenders from the United States and Guyana during the year.  The government held training sessions on preventing 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 accelerated this trend, as traffickers adapted by seeking methods to recruit individuals, especially children, in their own homes.   Communities vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor include children and young adults from poor households, child victims of sexual abuse, adults engaged in commercial sex, homeless LGBTQI+ youth, 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.  Local NGOs report parents more frequently facilitate their children’s exploitation since the onset of the pandemic, making home life increasingly unsafe for children, especially girls from lower socio-economic groups.  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.  Young people in state care are highly vulnerable to trafficking, particularly as they age out of the welfare system.  Gang members exploit children – typically boys from disadvantaged backgrounds – 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 temporary farmworkers in Canada reported some employers subjected them to abusive conditions indicative of trafficking, including insufficient food; verbal and physical intimidation and threats; and inadequate, surveillance-filled living quarters.  Jamaican women have reported being charged high recruitment fees, being 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.  Some Cuban nationals working in Jamaica, including Cuban medical and teaching professionals the government contracted, may have been forced to work by the Cuban government.  Children are subjected to sex trafficking in Jamaica’s resort areas frequented by tourists, sometimes with their parents’ involvement.  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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