THREE leading member countries of the Caribbean Community —Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago— are among nations criticised by the United States for failing to be more forthcoming in arresting the grave problems associated with the crime of human trafficking.
It may be ironical that such an accusation, or rebuke, as detailed in the US State Department's 12th and latest annual report on "trafficking in persons" (TIP), comes from the world's superpower.
There, in the US, as data reveals, thousands of foreign women and children, of varying ethnicities, ages and nationalities—among them from this region as well—continue to be exploited as slaves for sex and drug-related crimes and forced to exist in fear and degradation.
But this reality of human trafficking—a curse far worse than drug trafficking—of which the US is still viewed as the world's leading consumer-should in no way be used to either excuse or rationalise the evident shortcomings by governments of the Caribbean to intelligently, aggressively and methodically deal with the crime. It is a horrible reminder of the dark period of slavery.
Since passage by the US of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, successive administrations in Washington have been consistently unearthing and exposing crimes in trafficking in persons and using an assessment system to remind governments of their shortcomings in combating this dehumanising problem.
An often controversial category would be that of "Tier-2", used by the US State Department to expose noncompliance by governments in effectively arresting the scourge of human trafficking.
In the current annual report that has unsettled some governments and spurred others into more thoughtful responses, the trio of Caricom states placed in the Tier-2 category are Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.
Coinciding with disclosures of the State Department's current TIP Report, the Jamaica government was quick to disclose the appointment of a ministerial committee to come forward with a "comprehensive review" of this latest assessment from Washington's perspective
That initiative could well have been undertaken out of surprise, or disappointment, that Jamaica has suffered a downgrade from 'Tier-2" to the now more worrying 'Tier-2 Watch List" category.
Guyana, on the other hand, which has been commended by the US State Department for moving more towards defined "compliance", is being urged to "vigorously and appropriately" combat this ongoing crime of human degradation.
Trinidad and Tobago, on the other hand, has also been identified (like Jamaica and Guyana) among countries as a destination, source and transit point for trafficking of women and children for sex and forced labour.
The Express has reported that although the present government in Port of Spain passed in Parliament last year the Trafficking in Persons Act, it is still to be enacted into law for prosecutions to occur against those engaged in this crime against humanity.
While there has been some special focus on Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, the harsh, unflattering reality is that no member state of Caricom is considered to be without sin when it comes to being inflicted by the twin evils of human trafficking as well as in varying types of illicit drugs.
A few countries in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) sub-region continue to be in denial mode about also being sources and destination points for this abominable crime.
This is a crime against humanity that seems to cry out for national, nonpartisan involvement of government, parliamentary opposition, nongovernment organisations (including women and labour movement representatives) and, expectedly served by access to relevant sources of the security forces.
The new, imaginative and vigorous multifaceted approaches should come to be viewed by the public as a "war on trafficking in persons"—a concept with which they are familiar in relation to drug trafficking and terrorism.