Sunday 15 September, 2019

St Lucia gets mixed grade from latest human trafficking report

The following is the 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report for Saint Lucia, produced by the United States' State Department:

"The Government of St. Lucia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore St. Lucia remained on Tier 2. These efforts included passing a national action plan, investigating suspected traffickers, funding anti-trafficking prevention, conducting baseline trafficking research, and training its personnel in measures to combat trafficking. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not identify any victims for the third consecutive year, has not initiated a prosecution since 2015, and has never convicted a trafficker. The government did not formally approve standardized written procedures to identify victims, although they were used informally by law enforcement.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS

Increase efforts to identify victims. • Investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish perpetrators of sex trafficking and forced labor. • Amend the anti-trafficking law to remove sentencing provisions that allow fines in lieu of imprisonment. • Provide sufficient resources to fully implement the 2016-2019 national action plan. • Approve and implement standard operating procedures on a victim-centered approach to guide police, immigration, labor, child protection, judicial, and social welfare officials on victim identification and referral. • Continue to train government officials to implement written procedures to proactively identify sex and labor trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, such as children exploited in sex trafficking and migrant workers, and refer them to appropriate services. • Develop and implement labor recruitment policies and increase labor inspections to prevent trafficking. • Provide legal mechanisms for victims to work and receive temporary formal residency status.

PROSECUTION

The government increased law enforcement efforts. The 2010 Counter-Trafficking Act criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment or fines up to 100,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($37,040) for offenses involving an adult victim; the maximum imprisonment penalty increased to 10 years’ imprisonment for those involving a child victim. This penalty was sufficiently stringent; however, by allowing for a fine in lieu of imprisonment, the prescribed punishment for sex trafficking was not commensurate with those for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government conducted two investigations during the reporting period, compared to none in 2017 and three in 2016. The police participated in an INTERPOL operation targeting trafficking and initiated raids on nightclubs and areas of prostitution. The government has not initiated any prosecutions since 2015. The government has never convicted a trafficker. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses.

The police force has three officers dedicated to trafficking investigations and specially trained police interviewed potential victims during raids on commercial sex establishments. The Anti-Trafficking Task Force conducted training in victim identification and referrals, investigations, the trafficking law, money laundering, digital investigations of trafficking cases, and gender awareness in trafficking for 78 police officers and recruits, 22 immigration, customs, and ports officers, and 35 forensic lab staff and officers from the ministries of commerce and labor with the assistance of an international organization. The government conducted a capacity building workshop for 21 officers from the Department of Home Affairs and National Security. With technical assistance from an international organization, the government continued to develop a database to manage and process trafficking cases.

PROTECTION

The government decreased protection efforts. The government did not identify any trafficking victims in the past three reporting periods, compared with 10 in 2015. Authorities did not report screening vulnerable children for trafficking, despite government and outside observer reports that parents and others induced children into sex trafficking, The government completed drafting the National Child Protection Action Plan with an international agency to address child vulnerabilities. The government completed drafting standard operating procedures for victim identification, referral, and protection with an international organization. Although the government reported that it informally used the procedures, they have not been formally approved. The police used the draft victim screening form as a uniform guide. The government conducted two workshops on victim identification and referrals for civil society and health care providers. Authorities provided two workshops on victim identification and referral for diplomatic personnel and external affairs department staff. The government did not allocate any funds for victim protection in 2018 and 2017, compared to 1 million Eastern Caribbean dollars ($370,370) in 2016 for victim care related to a 2015 labor trafficking prosecution.

Trafficking victims could be referred through the Office of Gender Relations to various organizations for legal, health, advocacy, and crisis services. Although there was no dedicated shelter for trafficking victims, the government had six facilities available to house victims. Adult victims were able to leave at will but the government did not allow them to work or receive formal residency status because it considered victims wards of the state. The 2018 Child Care, Protection, and Adoption Act designated the Human Services Department within the Ministry of Equity as lead on child protection issues, which increased coordination of child victim services. The 2010 anti-trafficking act contained victim protection provisions, such as privacy measures, the ability to testify via video link, and witness protection, to encourage victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers. The act provided for victim restitution and other compensation in cases of traffickers’ conviction.

PREVENTION

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The home affairs and national security ministry led an anti-trafficking task force, consisting of relevant agencies and NGOs, and passed an updated national action plan through 2019. The government provided 80,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars ($29, 630) to the anti-trafficking task force and received the support of an international organization to implement the national action plan against trafficking. The task force joined with international and local NGOs to develop a national awareness campaign and conducted two anti-trafficking capacity building and public awareness workshops for teachers and civil society representatives. The campaign opened January 2019 in native French Creole as well as English and ran on the government television station. The government worked with another country to institute computer games teaching about child labor and commercial sex in seven schools.

Authorities coordinated with another government on safe recruitment and labor protection policies for St. Lucian seasonal agricultural workers. Authorities provided training in identifying trafficking indicators for commercial licensing officials who were responsible for vetting applications for business licenses. The government established the first trafficking hotline in January 2019. The government conducted a baseline study on public understanding and perception of trafficking with the support of an international organization, the results of which informed the design of the national awareness campaign. The government did not take measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labor.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in St Lucia, and traffickers exploit victims from St. Lucia abroad. Local children are subjected to sex trafficking. Government officials, civil society, and educators reported St. Lucian children from economically disadvantaged families are vulnerable to unorganized commercial sexual exploitation often encouraged or forced by parents and caretakers in exchange for goods or services. Civil society has also reported women, or in some cases older teenagers, recruiting younger adolescents to provide commercial sex with adults at street parties. Documented and undocumented migrants from the Caribbean and South Asia, including domestic workers, are vulnerable to trafficking. Foreign women who work in strip clubs and in prostitution are also vulnerable to sex trafficking. NGOs report that 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.

Get the latest local and international news straight to your mobile phone for free: