SAINT Lucia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons but is making significant efforts to do so, according to the 2019 US Trafficking in Persons Report.
This year the Department of Home Affairs and National Security has set out to meet specified obligations and implement short to long term recommendations in accordance with the reports of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the US Department of State which are the international custodians and assessors of the global illegal trade.
The Government’s overriding obligations with regards to trafficking in persons are to promote, prevent, protect and prosecute.
In fact, throughout this year the Department of Home Affairs and National Security and its key stakeholders like the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force have been intensifying their implementation and monitoring of the Victim Centered Approach.
According to the 2019 Report, Saint Lucia has engaged in certain efforts to improve its ranking on the world stage by passing a national action plan, investigating suspected traffickers, funding anti-trafficking prevention initiatives, conducting baseline trafficking research, and training personnel in measures to combat trafficking. However, Saint Lucia did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas including the identification of victims, initiating prosecution, and convicting traffickers. According to the report, the government did not formally approve standardized written procedures to identify victims, although they were used informally by law enforcement.
Despite all that the Department of Home Affairs and National Security noted that it is executing a continued work-programme in respect of the four Ps: Promote, Prevent, Protect and Prosecute.
The scope of the work includes the maintenance of the Trafficking in Persons website and Social Media platforms. The Department is also tasked with an objective to keep its websites and social media platforms up to date in regard to latest developments in Trafficking in Persons locally, regionally and internationally.
The Department, this year, is maintaining a general public education strategy that entails a budget to cover costs associated with promotional items, prize-giving incentives, purchase of air-time, and other such areas.
Part of the Department’s work-programme is to promote and ensure the protection of human trafficking victims. Should any potential victim be identified by the police, the welfare of that individual will be provided for by the Department through the provision of housing, food, clothing, medical care, transportation and outreach to other support services such as counselling, etc.
The Department this year is providing training on Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling to stakeholders within government and civil society through various workshops. Saint Lucia, in its efforts to educate the public will produce and disseminate promotional material such as fliers, brochures, pens, arms bands and other such material to students to promote the Trafficking in Persons hotline 847 and the slogan “Know it, see it, report it.”
The Department will also host promotional activities such as school fairs and activities in observance of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, provide the tools needed in the execution of Trafficking in Persons related administrative work, and meet requirements which call for the procuring of a camera/video for documentation of activities as well as for the purposes of media releases. There is also the responsibility which must be kept, to maintain ongoing public awareness campaigns inclusive of paid advertisements of Trafficking in Persons public service announcements, and erecting anti-trafficking billboards at Hewanorra International and George FL Charles Airports.
In its protection of victims the government will build or designate a specific center to house victims of trafficking, provide capacity building training and provision of relevant materials, etc.
Saint Lucia is on Tier 2 and should it fail to honour its mandate it will be downgraded to the red flag – watch list and so the Department of Home Affairs and National Security is ensuring that there is continual education about trafficking in persons, believing that the more knowledge one has about the topic, the better prepared and equipped one is to stop it.
The Counter-Trafficking Act enacted as Act no. 7 of 2010 came into force on 1 February, 2010. Under the Offence of Trafficking in Persons: A person who engages in, conspires to engage in, attempts to engage in, assists another person to engage in, or organises or directs another person to engage in trafficking in persons commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $100, 000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding five years.
The recruitment, transportation, harbouring, or receipt of a child, or giving of payment or benefits to obtain the consent of a person having control of a child, for the purpose of exploitation, constitutes trafficking in persons irrespective of whether any of the means of trafficking in persons has been established.
The Department of Home Affairs and National Security is presently reviewing the aspect of the Act which prescribes penalties upon conviction of traffickers of a fine of $100,000.00. The Department has engaged the Attorney General’s Chambers in reviewing this legislation.