The EU-funded project SEACOP V and the Ministry for the Public Service, Home Affairs Labour and Gender Affairs of St Lucia, on Thursday signed a Memorandum of Understanding to pursue cooperation in the fight against illicit maritime trade.
Represented by Minister Dr Virginia Albert-Poyotte, and SEACOP Regional Coordinator for the Caribbean, Karen Clarke, the event marked the continuation of a long-standing collaboration between the two entities in the fight against drug trafficking in the region.
“We are proud to be here today to sign SEACOP fifth phase’s MoU with our St Lucian counterparts. This comes after a very successful five-day training course which will be followed by a week of mentoring delivered to officers from the Customs and the Police Marine branch,” stated Karen Clarke.
“It will be a very special mentoring session for us as well, as we will have a trainer from the Jamaica Defence Force – Coastguard delivering the sessions. This is part of our brand-new agreement with JDF, whereby the agency will provide SEACOP with trainers across the region throughout the year 2022.”
The two activities aim to provide St Lucia with a robust specialist unit to assist in its continued fight against illicit maritime trafficking. Six years ago, SEACOP indeed carried out its very first training in St Lucia and has provided technical support to the country ever since.
In a message, Ambassador of the European Union to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM, Malgorzata Wasilewski, said: “There is simply no security issue where less cooperation is the answer. Traffickers are working together across borders, and so must we. The trafficking of illicit goods – including drugs – has a devastating impact on social and economic development as well as on public health. Where the stakes are the highest, we cannot succeed without international cooperation in intelligence sharing and collaborative enforcement.
In its daily implementation, the Global Illicit Flows Programme and its different components, like SEACOP, strive to provide mechanisms for West African, Latin American, Caribbean and European partners to cooperate and integrate in a way that would equal the level of close cooperation and high mobility of criminal networks. The projects have come a long way in building up capacities and encouraging inter-agency as well as international cooperation. The European Union remains deeply committed to this approach. We are connected to the world and we know that if you do not deal in time with a crisis abroad, the crisis will come to you.”
The MoU signing was preceded by a number of high-level meetings including the very first National Steering Committee of SEACOP V in St Lucia, which gathered key partners and stakeholders.
SEACOP officially launched its fifth phase of implementation in May 2021, under a consortium led by Expertise France and the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP), with funding from the European Union.
Building on the achievements of the four first phases, SEACOP V aims to continue contributing to the fight against maritime illicit trade and associated criminal networks in the targeted countries of the Caribbean -including St Lucia-, Latin America and West Africa. Consistent with human rights, the project seeks to help alleviate illicit trafficking’s negative impact on security, public health and socio-economic development.
Over the last seven years, SEACOP has provided support to a number of institutions fighting transnational organised crime in St Lucia, leading to a significant rise in the number of seizures of illicit goods. With the launch of its fifth phase, SEACOP V seeks to expand its scope of action with local partners such as the anticipated St Lucia Border Control Agency, to develop new partnerships with local and regional actors and to integrate further countries into its network combating illicit flows across the transatlantic axis.
Under the umbrella of the Global Illicit Flows Programme of the European Union, SEACOP V works towards three key objectives, namely: to reinforce the effectiveness of the SEACOP maritime intelligence and maritime/riverine control network geographically and technically; to sustainably integrate knowledge and knowhow on maritime threats and interdictions emanating from the transatlantic illicit trafficking routes into national and regional curricula; and to improve cooperation and information sharing at national, regional and transregional level, including with EU home affairs agencies.