The government maintained efforts to protect victims. The government formally identified eight trafficking victims, all through calls to a government hotline. In comparison, police formally identified ten victims during the previous reporting period. Identified victims included seven girls and one young woman, and all were Jamaican citizens exploited in sex trafficking. The government reported referring three victims to government-run shelters but did not specify the types of shelter, their length of stay, or lodging for the remaining victims. During the previous reporting period, the government referred six victims to accommodations, including government shelters and temporary private lodging, where they remained between three months and one year. The government reported providing all eight victims with care and services that may have included food, clothing, medical care, counseling, psycho-social support, legal assistance, training and educational support, or employment assistance, but it did not provide additional details on the scope or duration of services provided. The government spent approximately 2 million Jamaican dollars ($13,330) on protection and assistance to victims, a significant decrease from 7 million Jamaican dollars ($46,670) spent in the previous reporting period. 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.
The government’s National Children’s Registry (NCR) operated a hotline for reporting cases of child abuse, including human trafficking, that was available seven days a week but not overnight. The NCR hotline received 23 calls about suspected trafficking cases. Hotline officials referred all cases to the specialized police unit for investigation, and police identified eight victims as a result of these calls.
The government had several written guidelines to assist healthcare workers, labor officials, diplomats, hotline officials, and officers in the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) anti-trafficking and vice crimes unit in proactively identifying potential trafficking victims. However, these guidelines were not comprehensive, and local experts could not verify how consistently they were applied. With support from an NGO, several government agencies participated in the development of ministry-specific screening tools to guide officials in assessing behavioral, situational, health, and other factors to identify potential child trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, and a NRM to standardize procedures for victim referral and management of care. The National Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons (NATFATIP) and several individual government agencies endorsed the screening tools and national referral mechanism during the reporting period but did not begin standardized implementation. The Victim Services Division (VSD) began implementing the screening tool during its intake assessments of children. The government required all reports of suspected trafficking to go through the JCF’s anti-trafficking and vice crimes unit, and victims were not eligible to receive formal identification or trafficking-specific services without police referral. JCF, NATFATIP, and in the case of child victims, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), worked in consultation to arrange accommodation and other services to formally identified victims on a case-by-case basis. The government conducted virtual and in-person sessions to train immigration officials, medical professionals, and labor inspectors on procedures for identifying and referring trafficking victims. Nonetheless, many front-line responders had limited understanding of trafficking crimes, and the government identified and assisted a small number of victims. According to press reports, the government contracted approximately 450 Cuban medical professionals during the year. Authorities did not acknowledge their presence or provide information on measures taken to screen Cuban medical workers for trafficking indicators, despite ongoing concerns the Government of Cuba may have compelled some of them to work.
NATFATIP operated a shelter exclusively for trafficking victims, which could accommodate 12 female victims, and arranged private lodging for some victims, including men; in addition, authorities could place child victims in CPFSA facilities or female victims in NGO-operated shelters that were not exclusive to trafficking 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 they were unable 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. CPFSA had a protocol for providing services to child trafficking victims under the agency’s care, and the government had victim management guidelines for facilities that provided care to victims of trafficking in Jamaica. The government provided few long-term services to support victims’ reintegration, prevent re-exploitation, or sustain protection throughout the duration of lengthy court cases. The government continued to fund training for a Haitian woman who has been a resident of the NATFATIP shelter since 2013, but authorities did not take steps to assist her in safely transitioning 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. The government continued to provide lodging, medical services, food, and clothing to an Indian victim identified during the previous reporting period before he returned to India.
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 legal assistance, security, transportation, and lodging to two victims who testified in court during the reporting period. In certain instances, justice officials permitted victims to provide testimony through video or written statements. 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 prosecutors increased efforts to ensure judges implemented this provision appropriately. The court ordered one convicted sex trafficker to pay 250,000 Jamaican dollars ($1,670) to the victim. Jamaican law protected trafficking victims from prosecution for immigration or prostitution-related offenses traffickers compelled them to commit, but it did not provide immunity for other unlawful acts traffickers may have compelled victims to commit. 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.