Human Trafficking Challenges Caribbean Capacities
Ambassador Curtis A. Ward
On June 27, the U.S. Department of State will issue its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. According to the Department of State,
“The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report is the U.S. Government’s principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking. It is also the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts and reflects the U.S. Government’s commitment to global leadership on this key human rights and law enforcement issue. It represents an updated, global look at the nature and scope of trafficking in persons and the broad range of government actions to confront and eliminate it.”
The TIP Report is closely watched by countries all over the world. Very few countries are happy with the characterization of their efforts, or lack of efforts, to prevent human trafficking. No civilized country wishes to be associated with doing little or nothing to prevent human trafficking, but many unwittingly due to lack of capacity, and in some cases lack of appreciation for the extent and nature of this international crime are not doing enough. The TIP Report acts as a catalyst and guidepost for the actions they should take.
Caribbean countries are particularly sensitive to the annual TIP Report; and seven of them are rated very poorly in their efforts against human trafficking. Like most countries they are challenged by the complexity of human trafficking and they lack the appropriate law enforcement and justice capacities to deal with this phenomenon.
The reality is human trafficking is one of the most critical global issues of our time. No country is immune from human trafficking. Most importantly, human trafficking is the most immoral means of exploitation of our fellow humans; it destroys lives; and it destroys the hope of millions of individuals around the world. Practically all countries in the world are affected by human trafficking in one form or another, whether as country of origin, transit or destination of the victims of human trafficking.
The international community recognizes human trafficking as an international crime. In 2003, the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (TIP Protocol) entered into force. All Caribbean states are Parties to the TIP Protocol, but not all have in place the appropriate laws and law enforcement capacities to effectively make appreciable progress in preventing human trafficking in their jurisdictions.
Human trafficking is now viewed as the fastest growing transnational crime with the number of victims worldwide estimated conservatively at more than 2.7 million individuals annually. It affects every region of the world and generates tens of billions of dollars in profits for criminals each year. Sexual exploitation is by far the most commonly reported form of human trafficking, now estimated at 79% of the total number of victims, followed by forced labor, estimated at some 18% of the victims. (Information on the global extent of human trafficking is available on the UNODC website.)
Human Trafficking is often confused with Human Smuggling, but while they are distinctively different activities, smuggled individuals sometimes end up being trafficked. Human trafficking is often defined as a crime against humanity which involves the acquisition of people by improper means. It involves the act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through promise, the use of force, coercion or other fraudulent means, for the ultimate purpose of exploiting that individual. The trafficked person is exploited for the benefit of the trafficker.
A clear understanding of these differences is essential for legislators and law enforcement authorities to enact laws, and to investigate and prosecute these crimes.
Human trafficking takes many forms, many of which are grossly under-reported. These include, forced or bonded labor; domestic servitude and forced marriage; sex trafficking of women and girls; child sex trafficking; organ removal and trafficking; and a number of other related criminal activities. While not all of these necessarily apply to the Caribbean, human trafficking in the region is a very serious problem for the region which cannot be swept under the rug.
Like other transnational crimes, human trafficking activities are supported by many other illegal activities, including travel document fraud, money laundering, corruption, and multiple other related crimes. Because of the linked and overlapping nature of these international criminal activities, one has to approach these challenges and develop solutions to them in a holistic manner.
The seriousness of this crime cannot be overstated in terms of human suffering and the loss of human lives in many cases. Children and women are more often the victims of human trafficking, but young boys are also trafficked globally. The major driver of the crime of human trafficking is money – human trafficking generates $150 billion annually; and that’s a conservative estimate.
Again, according to the U.S. Department of State,
“The U.S. Government uses the TIP Report to engage foreign governments in dialogues to advance anti-trafficking reforms and to combat trafficking and to target resources on prevention, protection and prosecution programs. Worldwide, the report is used by international organizations, foreign governments, and nongovernmental organizations alike as a tool to examine where resources are most needed.”
Some Caribbean Governments are making strides in combatting human trafficking but they have a long way to go.
I just returned from Jamaica where I participated over four days (June 14-18) as a member of Airlines Ambassadors
International (AAI) Human Trafficking Awareness Training team participating in a program targeting airport workers at Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, and cruise ship port workers at the Ocho Rios Cruise Ship Port, where some Falmouth cruise ship port workers also participated.
AAI’s program was facilitated by Fi Wi Jamaica, a USAID-funded project at the University of Technology, Jamaica; and the National Task Force Against Human Trafficking in Persons (NATFATIP) Jamaica also provided support, including by adding Jamaica’s leading anti-human trafficking law enforcement officer to our team.
This officer who leads the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s efforts to prevent human trafficking in Jamaica is an internationally recognized expert on human trafficking. I learnt firsthand of the efforts being undertaken by the Jamaican Government through NATFATIP to raise public awareness of human trafficking and of the establishment of reporting mechanisms to end human trafficking in the country. I further learnt that Jamaica has provided human trafficking law enforcement training to the Bahamas, which is a reflection of an important collaborative effort in the region.
Through the AAI training program we were able to impart a greater understanding of the nature of human
trafficking and its debilitating effects on human life; and we provided an awareness of the indicators of human trafficking, how to recognize it, and what action to take when human trafficking is suspected. The reception to the AAI training program at all three venues were phenomenal, and we were able to link a cadre of individuals now committed to preventing human trafficking in Jamaica. AAI will continue to provide anti-human trafficking tools to a network comprising members of all three venues.
(Some of the photos used in this article provided compliments of Hugh Blair who also provided valuable support to the Team.)
Ambassador Curtis A. Ward