Over the past two decades, the Saint Lucian government has made notable efforts, including enacting anti-trafficking laws, to alleviate human trafficking in Saint Lucia. In the 2020 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report by the U.S. State Department, the Eastern Caribbean country attained a Tier 2 status due to its continued efforts toward bolstering its anti-trafficking capacity. Nonetheless, the U.S. Department of State’s latest research suggests that Saint Lucia has not yet fulfilled the minimum requirements for eradicating trafficking, leading to its downgrade to a Tier 2 watchlist nation in the 2022 report.
Sexual and labor exploitation in Saint Lucia’s human trafficking industry affects both locals and foreigners. Women commonly coerce teenage migrants and foreign victims, typically hailing from South Asia, Haiti and Jamaica, into the illicit trade. Business proprietors are frequently the culprits. Furthermore, there is a growing trend of older trafficking survivors recruiting younger victims.
Saint Lucia’s human trafficking rating, according to the Global Organized Crime Index, is four out of 5.13. The report reveals that parents and guardians frequently coerce or pressure victims into trafficking situations. Economic vulnerability is a key factor driving such exploitation, with children and rural women from low-income households at a heightened risk of succumbing to commercial sexual exploitation in exchange for goods and services.
Limitations Within the Legislation
The 2022 TIP report for Saint Lucia assesses the country’s human trafficking landscape in three domains: prosecution, prevention and protection, acknowledging the progress and shortcomings in each. For instance, the report states that the 2010 Counter-Trafficking Act, which criminalized sex trafficking in Saint Lucia, is sufficiently stringent but allows for a fine instead of imprisonment; thus, mitigating its efficiency in contrast to tackling other serious crimes.
The report also identifies the government’s failure to decrease demand for commercial sex as a concern. Saint Lucia’s government only identified “two child trafficking victims in 2019, zero victims between 2016 and 2018 and ten victims in 2015,” according to the report. The State Department also highlights inadequate legal, health and advocacy services for human trafficking victims, including shelters for trafficked individuals and weak enforcement of prevention laws. Moreover, the report notes that the COVID-19 pandemic contributed significantly to hampering the legislation’s implementation.
Lawmakers continue to introduce new policies against human trafficking in Saint Lucia. Some of these policies involve amendments to existing trafficking laws to further make certain that penalties are stringent or “commensurate with penalties of other serious crimes.”
Alongside these measures, the government of Saint Lucia launched a national action plan to enhance victim identification techniques, ensure rigorous investigation and conviction of traffickers and train officials in the latest procedures. Policymakers have also prioritized funding anti-trafficking prevention campaigns in their efforts to eliminate human trafficking in the country.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), a United Nations agency, has also been helping the government in building capacity to address human trafficking in Saint Lucia. Its week-long project in 2018 included workshops to support frontline workers in the identification, referral and protection of trafficking victims. IOM’s Senior Regional Thematic Specialist Rosilyne Borland explains: “Sensitizing and training frontline partners, like health professionals, diplomatic personnel and civil society is a necessary first step to being able to find people who need help.”
There has been ongoing support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Saint Lucia’s fight against human trafficking. In collaboration with the Centre of Excellence in Statistical Information on Government, Crime, Victimization and Justice (ESCoE), the UNODC is assisting the country in generating data on victimization and safety. The improved quality and availability of crime statistics are vital in understanding the trafficking phenomenon, including changes within reporting periods and victim/perpetrator patterns. It also enables the monitoring of progress and facilitates evidence-based decision-making in the country.
Despite the several and varied human trafficking issues affecting Saint Lucia, its government continues to make efforts toward alleviation. The latest projects with IOM and UNODC as well as the ongoing legislative measures are indications of several attempts to address a complicated social issue. Even amid the unanticipated COVID-19 pandemic and other national concerns, the Saint Lucian authorities continued to support victims and raise awareness about the issue. Moving forward, community work on existing action plans can potentially increase the pace and likelihood of change, while ensuring culturally relevant progress.
– Kasvi Sehgal