Trafficking in Persons Report 2012 - Jamaica

JAMAICA (Tier 2 Watch List)

Jamaica is a source, transit, and destination country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. The exploitation of local children in the sex trade, a form of sex trafficking, remains a problem. The media has reported that pimps are luring Jamaican children under age 18 into prostitution, especially in urban areas in Jamaica. NGOs and the government remain alarmed at the high number of missing children and are concerned that some of these children are falling prey to sex trafficking. Sex trafficking of children and adults likely occurs on the street, in night clubs, bars, and private homes. In addition, massage parlors in Jamaica reportedly often lure women into prostitution under the false pretense of employment as massage therapists and then withhold their wages and restrict their movement – key indicators of human trafficking. People living in Jamaica’s poverty-stricken garrison communities, territories ruled by criminal “dons” that are effectively outside of the government’s control, are especially at risk. An NGO working with street children reported that forced labor of children in street vending is prevalent. There is evidence that foreign nationals are subjected to forced labor in Jamaica. There were reports that Jamaican citizens have been subjected to sex trafficking or forced labor abroad, including throughout the Caribbean, Canada, the United States, and the UK.

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. Despite these efforts, the government failed to demonstrate evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous reporting period; therefore Jamaica is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. The government identified only one victim during the reporting period and reported no convictions of trafficking offenders, thus highlighting serious concerns about a lack of accountability for trafficking offenders and any officials complicit in human trafficking.

Recommendations for Jamaica: Vigorously prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenders, including officials complicit in forced labor or sex trafficking; ensure prescribed penalties for human trafficking are commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as forcible sexual assault; implement standard operating procedures to guide police, labor inspectors, child welfare officials, health workers, and other government 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 – and their referral to adequate service providers; and explore using existing partnerships with NGOs to expand awareness activities, particularly prevention campaigns directed at youth and potential clients of the sex trade.


The government made limited progress in the prosecution of trafficking offenders during the reporting period. The government prohibits all forms of trafficking through its comprehensive Trafficking Act of Jamaica, which went into effect in 2007. Punishments prescribed for human trafficking under the Act extend up to 10 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent but do not appear to be commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government initiated three new trafficking investigations, one new labor trafficking prosecution, and one new sex trafficking prosecution during the reporting period. Ten prosecutions from previous reporting periods, including four initiated during the preceding year, remained ongoing. The government reported no convictions of trafficking offenders during the year; there were no convictions during the preceding year. The government reported no investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of officials complicit in human trafficking. In an effort to strengthen awareness and law enforcement efforts, the government funded and conducted in collaboration with a local NGO a human trafficking sensitization seminar in April 2011 for approximately 32 members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. In December 2011, the government funded an NGO to implement training for hotline operators on handling human trafficking cases.


The government made limited progress in the protection of trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government identified only one new trafficking victim – an underage girl whose family member was selling her for sex. The lack of victims identified raised concerns that the government did not employ standard operating procedures to guide front-line responders, such as police, labor inspectors, child protection officials, and health officials, in proactive identification of human trafficking and referral of suspected cases for assistance. The government placed the one identified victim in a temporary shelter for abused girls, with a longer term plan of seeking placement for the girl with extended family. Officials provided assistance and safe voluntary repatriation in cooperation with IOM for four foreign labor trafficking victims identified in the previous reporting period. The government reported spending the equivalent of approximately $12,700 on services for trafficking victims including, shelter, counselling, clothing, and meals; this compares with the equivalent of $176,470 that it spent on victim protection during the preceding year. A trafficking-specific shelter mentioned during previous reporting periods had yet to shelter any trafficking victims and reportedly was not operational. Jamaican officials encouraged victims to participate in investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenders. The Trafficking Act of Jamaica guarantees that trafficking victims are immune from prosecution for immigration or prostitution violations committed as a direct result of their being subjected to forced prostitution or forced labor; there were no allegations of victim punishment during the reporting period. In accordance with Jamaica’s anti-trafficking law, the government provided formal guidance for immigration officials, advising them not to deport foreign victims, and it provided temporary immigration relief to at least four foreign trafficking victims during the reporting period.


The government demonstrated some trafficking prevention efforts during the reporting period. The government did not implement a national trafficking awareness campaign but acknowledged Jamaica’s human trafficking problem. The government’s anti-trafficking task force, which met on a monthly basis, expanded its outreach efforts and included many more government organizations (including the education, tourism, and health ministries along with the Office of the Children’s Advocate and the justice training institute) and NGOs. The task force also reached out to NGOs operating in tourism hubs across Jamaica to establish collaborative relationships that will lead to better understanding and possible identification of child sex tourism on the island. A government-operated general crime victim hotline offered specialized assistance to persons reporting human trafficking. The government hosted a national plan of action workshop, including multiple stakeholders, and began work on a national plan of action against human trafficking. The government did not report any efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.