By Okoye Henry
KINGSTON, Jamaica, (JIS) – Minister of national security, Dr Horace Chang, has called for a renewed focus by CARICOM Member States on combatting the scourges of human trafficking and the illicit firearms trade.
He said that while these crimes are not the only threats facing the region, they facilitate other criminal activities, which jeopardise the peace and security of the region.
“The issue of illicit firearms trafficking was identified as a tier one threat in the CARICOM Regional Security Strategy and as one of the main drivers of criminality levels in the region. It has the potential to cripple the already fragile socio-economic developmental progress in CARICOM and the advancement of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME),” Dr Chang said. “None of our countries manufacture firearms and yet the ill effects of their proliferation and the contribution to gang violence and transnational criminal activities permeates our respective territories and are responsible for more than 70 percent of homicides in CARICOM. It is within this context that it is important to disrupt and prevent illegal firearms and ammunition passing through our borders,” he further contended.
The minister was addressing the 24th meeting of the Council for National Security and Law Enforcement (CONSLE) in Trelawny on Thursday, October 6.
As it relates to the scourge of human trafficking, he said that perpetrators of this crime continue to exploit the region’s most vulnerable who are forced into labour, sexual servitude, and debt bondage.
He pointed out that the latest United Nations (UN) Office on Drugs and Crime Global Report on Trafficking in Persons shows that around one-third of all detected victims are children, a figure that has tripled over the past 15 years.
“Indeed, we can all agree that renewed and reinvigorated action against this crime is needed more than ever, as economic hardship, conflict, and health and climate emergencies globally are increasing and compounding vulnerabilities to trafficking, exploitation and abuse,” Dr Chang said.
He said there is need for increased partnerships among CARICOM States in tackling the vulnerabilities and threats posed by transnational organised criminal activities, which also include cyber security and maritime crimes.
Such collaboration, he noted, includes greater intelligence sharing and strategic deployment of resources among countries.
As it relates to Jamaica, Dr Chang said that the Government has been increasing its budgetary allocation and manpower in tackling crime at the national level.
He noted that the country has a duty to ensure that crimefighting resources are efficiently and appropriately managed, while forging partnerships among stakeholders both locally and regionally.
“We need long-term Caribbean-led thinking about how best to co-exist in a world in which new security threats are emerging,” Dr Chang said.
CONSLE is responsible for the coordination of the multi-dimensional nature of security, to ensure a safe and stable Community.
This year’s conference, held from October 5-7, was the first face-to-face event since the COVID-19 pandemic.