Human Trafficking Report: St Lucia Making Progress
The 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report formulated by the United States State Department has been released. The annual report ranks governments "based on their perceived efforts to acknowledge and combat human trafficking."
St Lucia made progress compared to last year's report, moving from the Tier 2 Watchlist up to Tier 2, part of the group of "countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards."
The report divides nations into tiers based on their compliance with standards outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). The other tiers are:
- Tier 1 Countries whose governments fully comply with the TVPA's minimum standards.
- Tier 2 Watchlist Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards AND: a) The absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing; or b) There is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or c) The determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year.
- Tier 3 Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
The full report on St Lucia is as follows:
The Government of St. Lucia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, St. Lucia was upgraded to Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by investigating three cases of potential trafficking and approving a national action plan for anti-trafficking efforts. The government provided assistance and restitution to victims in a labor trafficking case. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not approve or implement standard operating procedures for victim identification and referral. The government did not initiate new trafficking prosecutions.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ST. LUCIA
Prosecute, convict, and punish perpetrators of forced labor and sex trafficking; increase efforts to identify and provide assistance to victims; fully implement the 2015-2018 national action plan; adopt standard operating procedures on a victim-centered approach to guide police, immigration, labor, child protection, judicial and social welfare officials on victim identification, referral, and participation in legal proceedings; train government officials to implement procedures to proactively identify labor and sex trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as migrant workers in domestic service and children exploited in sex trafficking, and refer them to appropriate services; take measures, respective of due process, to expedite prosecution of trafficking cases; amend shortcomings in the law so penalties for trafficking are commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape; and implement a national public awareness campaign about forced labor and sex trafficking.
The government increased law enforcement efforts. The 2010 Counter-Trafficking Act prohibits all forms of trafficking, punishable by up to five years imprisonment or fines of up to 100,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($37,040), or both. These penalties are sufficiently stringent for labor trafficking, but with regard to sex trafficking, inadequate because they were not commensurate with penalties for other serious crimes, such as rape. The anti-trafficking act also criminalizes the unlawful holding of identity documents and allows for asset forfeiture of persons convicted of trafficking. The government initiated three trafficking investigations during the reporting period, an increase from one in 2015. The police closed all three investigations due to a lack of evidence. The police lacked personnel trained to identify trafficking.
The government did not initiate any prosecutions in the reporting period, compared to four in 2015 and none from 2011 to 2014. The director of public prosecutions retired in March 2016, and this position was empty until a new director was appointed in October 2016; this gap prevented any movement forward on existing cases during this time period.
The government took steps to improve the efficiency of the justice system by creating a new position for a second high court judge to hear criminal trials; previously there was only one high court judge to hear all criminal trials.
The government continued to prosecute a March 2015 labor trafficking case, in which 70 students from Nepal, India, and the Philippines each paid an estimated $9,000 to attend a hospitality training school. Upon arrival, students found the academy closed, and nine students were forced to provide labor under the guise of hospitality internships. The government arrested and indicted four men (three men from India and one from Bangladesh) for labor trafficking. The prosecution remained in process at the end of the reporting period. The government had yet to convict a trafficker.
The government had never reported investigating, prosecuting, or convicting a public official complicit in trafficking. The police reported cooperation with the United States and other Caribbean countries to exchange information on trafficking cases. The government, in collaboration with an international organization and Interpol, trained immigration and police officers in investigative techniques and victim identification, referral, and assistance. The government provided a separate training for judicial authorities.
The government increased protection efforts. The government did not identify any trafficking victims in the reporting period, compared with 10 in 2015. However, the government conducted proactive investigations to identify victims. Police raided one night club suspected of trafficking or prostitution; however, the police did not identify any victims in this raid. The government did not have written procedures to guide officials on the proactive identification of victims. Starting in 2014, an international organization assisted the government with drafting formal procedures to guide law enforcement, health, and other officials on victim identification and referral to available protection and assistance services; however, the government had not finalized them at the close of this reporting period. The government reported it allocated 371,334 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($137,530) for victim care during the reporting period, including the provision of long-term housing, meals, health care, counseling, and personal care items for up to 20 victims and witnesses related to an ongoing labor trafficking case. An international organization also provided airfare for those who wanted to return home. Notably, a separate court decision in the labor trafficking case provided funds from the perpetrators to the victims and their dependents. The amount of restitution paid to the students was 1 million Eastern Caribbean Dollars ($370,370).
Although there was no dedicated shelter for trafficking victims, the government had six different facilities available to house victims. Through the Office of Gender Relations, trafficking victims could be referred to various organizations to provide legal, health, advocacy, and crisis services. Authorities referred victims on an ad hoc basis to legal, advocacy, and crisis services.
Adult victims were able to leave at will, but were not allowed to work or receive formal residency status because the government considered victims wards of the state. However, several witnesses involved in the pending labor trafficking case worked during the reporting period.
The 2010 anti-trafficking act contains victim protection provisions, such as privacy and witness protection, to encourage victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers. The director of public prosecutions met with victims and witnesses to prepare and encourage them to participate in a trial. The anti-trafficking act protects trafficking victims from prosecution for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to trafficking and protects foreign victims from deportation. The police reported no trafficking victims were detained or fined as a result of their being subjected to trafficking. The act also provides for restitution to all victims and immigration relief to foreign national victims. Students in the labor trafficking case received restitution from the perpetrators related to the charge of “obtaining property by deception.”
The government maintained minimal efforts to prevent trafficking. The home affairs and national security ministry led an anti-trafficking taskforce, consisting of relevant agencies and NGOs, in implementing the national action plan. In September 2016, the government approved a national action plan and a national framework for combating trafficking in persons; the national plan was in force and covered 2015-2018.
The government, however, did not provide financial assistance to the taskforce to implement the plan, and the taskforce made little progress in implementing the plan. The government, in partnership with an international organization and local NGO, finalized a public education campaign, but it did not print and distribute the fliers due to a lack of funding. The gender office conducted awareness campaigns at secondary schools. The interagency taskforce met six times during the reporting period.
The immigration department presented recommendations for improving visa documentation based on the mistakes made in the labor trafficking case. The government-funded an NGO to run a hotline for victims of violence, including trafficking victims, but it received zero human trafficking calls during the reporting period. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel, although the Ministry of External Affairs and the anti-trafficking taskforce began developing a training curriculum. To help raise public awareness, on October 2016, the home affairs minister gave a press conference highlighting the problem of mothers subjecting their children to trafficking. The government did not take measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor.
As reported over the past five years, St. Lucia is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Documented and undocumented immigrants from the Caribbean and South Asia, including domestic workers, are the groups most vulnerable to human trafficking. Local and foreign children are subjected to sex trafficking. Foreign women who work in strip clubs and in prostitution are also vulnerable to sex trafficking. NGOs report disadvantaged young women from rural areas are vulnerable to sex trafficking. According to the government, business owners from St. Lucia, India, China, Cuba, and Russia are the most likely trafficking perpetrators in the country. Civil society has also reported women, or in some cases older teenagers, recruiting younger adolescents to provide transactional sex with adults at street parties.