Trafficking in Persons Report 2015 - Country Narratives - Jamaica

JAMAICA: Tier 2 Watch List

Jamaica is a source and destination country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Sex trafficking of Jamaican women and children reportedly occurs on streets and in night clubs, bars, massage parlors, and private homes, including in resort towns. Jamaican citizens have been subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor abroad, including in other Caribbean countries, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Communities vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor include residents of Jamaica’s poverty-stricken areas ruled by criminal “dons,” who remain effectively outside of the government’s control, and workers in the informal sector, particularly on family farms and in markets and shops. A 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. NGOs and other local observers report child sex tourism is a problem in Jamaica’s resort areas. Jamaican police officers may be complicit in prostitution rings, some of which are alleged to recruit children and coerce adults into the sex trade.

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 2014, the government made substantive efforts to raise public awareness of human trafficking. The government also named a national trafficking in persons rapporteur, the first such appointment in the region, who will report directly to Parliament. The director of public prosecution successfully concluded a trafficking case at the Supreme Court. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Jamaica is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. For the sixth consecutive year, the government did not convict any traffickers, including officials complicit in human trafficking. While the government identified more Jamaican adult trafficking victims than in the previous reporting period, it only identified one child victim compared with the high number of children vulnerable to both sex trafficking and forced labor.


Vigorously prosecute, convict, and punish traffickers, including any officials complicit in sex or labor trafficking; identify and assist more victims of forced labor and sex trafficking, including prostituted Jamaican children; develop a new, comprehensive national action plan with adequate funding dedicated to implement the plan; fully implement government-wide standard operating procedures to guide police, labor inspectors, child welfare officials, and health workers in the proactive identification of local and foreign victims of forced labor and sex trafficking, including children under age 18 in prostitution in night clubs, bars, and massage parlors; develop and implement standards for shelter and trafficking victim care designed to move victims toward self-sufficiency; provide the necessary authority and support to the newly appointed national rapporteur on trafficking in persons to carry out the mandate to investigate reports of human trafficking, report on violations of the rights of victims, and provide an annual report to the government; and continue efforts to raise awareness about human trafficking of Jamaican citizens and foreign nationals.


The government did not secure any trafficking convictions; however, it successfully concluded a trafficking trial at the Supreme Court, which resulted in a hung jury, and continued to pursue 13 trafficking cases in the court system. The government prohibits all forms of trafficking through its comprehensive Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression, and Punishment) Act. Maximum sentences for trafficking crimes range from 20 years’ imprisonment for trafficking in persons and conspiracy to commit trafficking to 30 years’ imprisonment for aggravated trafficking in persons. In April 2014, officials enacted the Criminal Justice Act, which may be used to prosecute traffickers who are members of a “criminal organization” with penalties of five to 15 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes.

Jamaica’s laws against human trafficking are sufficient; however, the government has not convicted any traffickers in the previous six years. Chronic delays in the justice system seriously impeded trafficking and other violent crime prosecutions. The Ministry of Justice is undertaking a judicial reform program to improve efficiency. Authorities reportedly initiated 38 new trafficking investigations, compared with 27 in 2013, leading to the arrest of five individuals for suspected sex trafficking crimes in 2014. Prosecutors initiated prosecutions of five individuals in 2014, including a former government official, for violations of the anti-trafficking law, compared with four prosecutions initiated in 2013. The government continued 10 trafficking prosecutions from previous reporting periods including seven sex trafficking, two forced labor, and one domestic servitude prosecution. In one of these cases, the case was delayed because of the need to appoint legal counsel for the suspected trafficker. Authorities reported no new investigations or any convictions of government officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses. The Jamaican police, in collaboration with Bahamian counterparts, oversaw the investigation that led to the successful prosecution and 2014 conviction in The Bahamas of a Jamaican national for sex trafficking. The government funded and provided trafficking training for 168 police officers, judges, and magistrates.


The government sustained efforts to protect identified victims. Authorities identified 20 potential sex trafficking victims in 2014, including four confirmed victims—three adult females and one female child—and 16 suspected victims, all adult females. In comparison, authorities identified 14 suspected victims of trafficking in 2013. Eleven of the suspected victims were Jamaican and nine were foreign nationals from Colombia, Guyana, and Suriname. Police developed a standard operating procedure on victim identification available by intranet at the national police college. The children’s registry continued to use a standard procedure to receive reports and referrals concerning violence against children and trafficking victims, and immigration officials continued to use a procedure to screen and conduct risk assessments of potential victims. Although the government offered protection to all confirmed and suspected victims, few victims were identified relative to the size of the vulnerable population.

All 20 confirmed and suspected victims were referred to government and NGO care facilities and received medical services, psychological services, and financial assistance for basic necessities. The foreign national victims from Colombia, Guyana, and Suriname were later voluntarily repatriated to their home countries. The government’s trafficking shelter, which could house 12 people, continued to assist only one person—a domestic servitude victim who recently turned 18 and has lived in the shelter for two years. The victim did not attend school, but was provided guided instruction through a web-based curriculum commonly used in Jamaican schools; she left the shelter infrequently and reportedly with a chaperone for her safety. Other government-supported shelters did not allow victims to leave at will or without a chaperone. Authorities provided 3,400,000 Jamaican dollars ($29,500) in funding for the government shelter in 2014. In accordance with Jamaica’s anti-trafficking law, the government provided official guidance for immigration authorities not to deport foreign victims. Authorities did not provide immigration relief to any foreign victims, all of whom chose to be repatriated, compared with one foreign victim out of 14 potential victims in 2013 and 21 foreign victims out of 23 potential victims during 2012. There were no reports of the government inappropriately punishing victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking.


The government increased efforts to prevent human trafficking, in contrast with previous years. Jamaica had a national anti-trafficking plan through 2015. The cabinet appointed the Jamaican children’s advocate as the national rapporteur on trafficking in persons in order to investigate reports of trafficking, report on violations of the rights of victims, and provide an annual report to the government. The government funded public service announcements, which aired via television, radio, and cinema messages from February to April 2015. Officials published an anti-trafficking curriculum for secondary school students to raise awareness. The national anti-trafficking taskforce delivered presentations and pamphlets about trafficking to students, educators, and the public at a university, schools, churches, and events across the country; and also to 245 health workers in three parishes. The labor ministry educated Jamaican workers set to work in a foreign seasonal agricultural program about the risks of trafficking prior to their departure between January and October each year. The taskforce educated members of the tourism industry in major resort areas to encourage reporting of suspected sex tourism. The government provided anti-trafficking training to some diplomatic personnel. Although raids were conducted in popular resort areas, the government did not report any child sex tourism investigations, prosecutions, or convictions, nor were there efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, child sex tourism, or forced labor.