Caribbean Security Crime & Justice Human Trafficking Jamaica Crime & Justice

Human Trafficking Challenges Caribbean Capacities

Amb. Curtis Ward - training session at Montego bay airport

Amb. Curtis A. Ward – Human Trafficking awareness training session (Kingston Airport – NMIA)

Human Trafficking Challenges Caribbean Capacities

 Ambassador Curtis A. Ward

(23 June 2017) — 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.

(L-R) DSP Carl Berry (JCF), Amb. Ward, Shamere McKenzie (AAI Trainer), Lisa (receiving ertificate of participation), and Nancy Rivard (AAI)

(L-R) DSP Carl Berry (JCF), Amb. Ward, Shamere McKenzie (AAI Trainer), Lisa (receiving Certificate of Participation), and Nancy Rivard (AAI) (at Ohco Rios Cruise Ship Port)

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.)

Amb. Ward at Montego Bay Airport

Amb. Ward – TIP training session (Montego Bay Airport)

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.

Shamere McKenzie

Shamere McKenzie – TIP training session (Montego Bay Airport)

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.”

Nancy Rivard, President of AAI

Nancy Rivard, President of AAI – TIP training session (Kingston Airport – NMIA)

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

Partial group photo - Montego Bay airport

Partial group photo – Montego Bay Airport

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

Please follow me on Facebook and Twitter

About the author

Ambassador Curtis A. Ward

Ambassador Curtis A. Ward is a former Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations with Special Responsibility for Security Council Affairs (1999-2002) serving on the UN Security Council for two years. He served three years as Expert Adviser to the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee. He is an Attorney-at-Law and International Consultant with extensive knowledge and experience in national and international legal and policy frameworks for effective implementation of United Nations (UN) and other international anti-terrorism mandates; the legal and administrative requirements to effectively implement and enforce anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism (AML/CFT); extensive knowledge of the legal and regulatory requirements for effective implementation and enforcement of United Nations multilateral and U.S.-imposed unilateral sanctions; and the imperatives for Rule of Law and governance. He is a geopolitical and international security analyst, and a human rights, democracy, and anticorruption advocate.


  • Thank you Ambassador Curtis Ward for this very informative article on Human Trafficking in general and its applicability to Jamaica. Of importance is the fact that in many countries and in Jamaica, some exploited persons are not regarded as victims of “Human Trafficking” but of other Crimes and Misdemeanors and this is reflected in the Laws that are presently on the books and the policing and prosecution of crimes of this nature. Therefore, the statistics on prosecution may or may not reflect the true reality that is reflected in the “TIP Report” constructed by the US Government and impact on a country’s negative or positive ranking on the Report. Significant efforts have been made by Jamaica to put appropriate Laws and Regulations on the books and to align classification and prosecution of “Human Trafficking” crimes appropriately; with the effect that Jamaica now can show evidence that it has successfully prosecuted individuals for Human Trafficking crimes and this should result in an improved standing on the US Government’s “TIP Report”. Apart from the morality of protecting victims and prosecuting offenders that countries may adhere to; there are also practical considerations that under the US “Leahy Act, countries that are in the negative tiers of the “TIP Report” are absolutely prohibited by US Law from receiving Aid of one kind and another from any US Government Agency. To illustrate further, Jamaica has received significant technical and material assistance from the US Government in the form of boats for proper enforcement of the maritime that is exposed to narco-trafficking, gun smuggling and terrorist activity; which has been of vital importance in border protection of both countries. All of this security cooperation will come to a screeching halt, if and when Leahy Act Provisions are triggered by a highly adverse “TIP Report”. Hence, countries like Jamaica must provide wider public education of the issue of what is “Human Trafficking” and the many components as defined in this Article; and also train its Public Officials to recognize and prosecute the activity. I therefore congratulate you Ambassador Ward on the Training Exercise that you have just participated in, as part of the way forward. Our Ambassador in Washington and Embassy Officials must pay close attention to this issue as part of their conduct of Diplomacy, in the context of improving US/Jamaica Bilateral Relationships.
    Ambassador Ralph Thomas

Leave a Comment