The Government of Saint Lucia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included passing an amendment to remove the option for a fine in lieu of imprisonment; increasing public awareness of the hotline to report trafficking; and working with an international partner to investigate a potential child sex trafficking case. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity. The government has not initiated a prosecution since 2015 and has never convicted a trafficker. The government did not identify any victims for the second consecutive year or report providing any services to victims. The government did not enact or fund a new national action plan (NAP). Therefore Saint Lucia was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List.
Increase efforts to identify vulnerable individuals, especially children, migrants, and Cuban medical professionals, screen them for trafficking indicators, and refer identified victims to services.
Investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish perpetrators of sex trafficking and labor trafficking under the Counter-Trafficking (Amendment) Act.
Amend trafficking provisions in the 2021 Counter-Trafficking (Amendment) Act to prescribe penalties for sex trafficking that are commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
Develop a NAP for 2022 and onwards.
Reduce court backlog and pretrial detention delays affecting trafficking cases.
Implement a process to share trafficking law enforcement cases across government agencies and provide a mechanism for civil society to report law enforcement cases and potential victims to the anti-trafficking task force.
Develop and implement labor recruitment policies, hire and train more inspectors for labor trafficking inspections, and improve interagency coordination on labor issues.
Implement standard operating procedures (SOPs) 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 law enforcement officials to gather evidence of trafficking cases appropriate for prosecution.
Provide legal mechanisms for all victims to work and receive temporary formal residency status.
The government maintained minimal law enforcement efforts. The government enacted amendments to the Counter-Trafficking Act during the reporting period. The Counter-Trafficking Act, as amended, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment. These penalties were sufficiently stringent but, with respect to sex trafficking, were not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
The government conducted one trafficking investigation under the Counter-Trafficking (Amendment) Act during the reporting period, compared with none in 2020 and three in 2019. The case involved two Saint Lucian children taken to France; the government requested France’s cooperation with the investigation, which remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period. The government has not initiated a trafficking prosecution since 2015. The government has never convicted a trafficker, and courts have closed trials or dismissed charges in all trafficking prosecutions since 2016.
The police force suffered significant personnel shortages, with many officers in quarantine or ill with COVID-19; some active duty police officers died from the virus. Despite this, police continued routine operations and conducted investigations. Criminal trials stopped at the beginning of the pandemic and did not restart during the current reporting period because the law required proceedings include an in-person jury and the country lacked courtrooms large enough to accommodate jurors and other trial participants during the pandemic. Observers reported significant court backlogs and pretrial detention of defendants for all serious crimes, including trafficking cases, which could last as long as six years. There was no separate budget for trafficking cases, and court resources remained limited. The RSLPF had three officers in the Major Crimes Unit dedicated to trafficking investigations, and its Vulnerable Persons Unit could also investigate potential trafficking cases involving children or sexual exploitation. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in trafficking offenses. The government joined the EU’s SEACOP V project in May 2021 and began to improve maritime intelligence-sharing and cooperation against organized criminal groups, including trafficking.
The government maintained minimal protection efforts. The government did not identify any potential trafficking victims for the second consecutive year. The government did not report providing services to any trafficking victims during the reporting period. Authorities used SOPs for victim identification, referral, and protection updated in March 2021; the SOPs included an international organization’s victim screening form. The government had a cooperation agreement with the Government of Cuba for Cuban workers in the country; the government reported it screened the workers for trafficking indicators and that the workers remained in possession of their passports. The government reported that it directly paid the Cuban medical workers a monthly stipend and additionally provided them furnished housing or rental expenses, internet, property maintenance, transportation, and international airfare to and from the country; the workers were allowed 34 days leave after 11 months of service. Specially trained police officers interviewed potential trafficking victims and reported generally screening for trafficking indicators when detaining or arresting individuals involved in commercial sex, migrants, and those in other vulnerable groups. The government did not detain or arrest any individuals involved in commercial sex during the reporting period. Police generally lacked sensitization and training on sex trafficking and sex tourism, particularly involving children.
The government worked with NGOs and encouraged them to report cases. The government did not maintain a dedicated shelter for trafficking victims and had an agreement with NGOs to provide shelter for victims when the need arose; the government did not report referring any victims to NGO shelters during the reporting period. The government did not have a specific funding allocation for victim care, but the Minister of Home Affairs could request the Prime Minister provide financial support for victims as needed. The Division of Human Services could provide victims with counseling, meals, accommodation, medical care, toiletries, clothing, and in some cases, allowances; the government did not report providing these services during the reporting period. The Office of Gender Relations could refer trafficking victims to NGOs for legal, health, advocacy, and crisis services. Adult victims could leave shelters at will, but the government did not allow foreign victims to work or receive formal residency status because it considered victims wards of the state; although, the government could permit victims who were material witnesses in a criminal case to remain and work in the country. The Counter-Trafficking Act mandated special provisions for child victims that could include understanding of their rights, respect for privacy, housing, care, reunification with family in the country or abroad if safe and possible, specialized mental and physical care, and education. The Division of Human Services could place child victims in one of two children’s homes but did not report doing so during the reporting period.
The Counter-Trafficking (Amendment) 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. Children could also testify via video and have a guardian or social worker present during testimony and court proceedings. The Counter-Trafficking (Amendment) Act also provided that judges could, upon conviction of a trafficker, order the trafficker to pay victim restitution. The government did not report using these provisions during the reporting period. Foreign victims had the same access to care as domestic victims, and the government could assist foreign victims seeking repatriation.
The government maintained minimal efforts to prevent trafficking. With the support of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of National Security led the task force consisting of relevant agencies and NGOs. Due to pandemic-related restrictions, the task force coordinated via telephone. In response to the pandemic, authorities diverted government resources—including those for trafficking and the task force—to its pandemic response. In addition, government personnel focused primarily on the pandemic response and worked from home due to social distancing requirements, inhibiting the government’s ability to implement anti-trafficking efforts. The government official in charge of drafting the new NAP was seconded to the Ministry of Education as it began to implement virtual public education efforts in response to pandemic-related restrictions. The task force hosted an online meeting in June 2021 for the public sector to examine its response to child sex trafficking, especially among those economically disadvantaged by the pandemic. The task force continued a media campaign by issuing trafficking-related press releases and public service announcements promoting trafficking awareness and the hotline. The public could still make referrals through a police command center control room and toll-free 24-hour hotline launched in 2019, which handled calls in English and Saint Lucian Creole French; the government did not report any trafficking-related referrals from the hotline during the reporting period. In 2020, the government started a comprehensive study to provide recommendations on targeting economic development plans to reduce the vulnerability of economically disadvantaged populations to trafficking and other crimes; the study remained ongoing at the end of the previous reporting period.
The government did not report any changes to its regulations and oversight of labor recruitment or efforts to regulate recruitment practices. Foreign nationals coming to work in the country had to complete a work permit application process that included a certificate of character obtained from the Police Records Unit. While labor laws prohibited most forms of forced or compulsory labor, the government did not enforce them effectively. Expert observers noted there were not enough trained labor inspectors to monitor all sectors for labor trafficking and that inspectors usually visited suspect areas only after receiving a complaint. In addition, coordination between ministries and departments dealing with labor issues was poor, hindering enforcement efforts. In 2020, the government reviewed the Labor Act, which specified the Labor Department’s authorities; the Attorney General was reviewing the revised draft legislation at the end of the reporting period. Authorities reported all inspections looked for child labor, but they did not conduct child labor-specific inspections; inspectors did not receive child labor-specific training. The government did not identify any cases of child sex tourism during the reporting period, nor did it take measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government did not provide training to its diplomats.
As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Saint Lucia, and traffickers exploit victims from Saint Lucia abroad. Government officials, civil society, and educators reported Saint Lucian children from economically disadvantaged families are at risk of child sex trafficking, often encouraged or forced by parents and caretakers in exchange for goods or services. The pandemic increased vulnerability—including for children—for those negatively impacted economically. Civil society has also reported women, or in some cases older teenagers, recruit younger children to provide commercial sex to 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 commercial sex are at risk of sex trafficking. NGOs report that disadvantaged young women from rural areas are vulnerable to sex trafficking, and children from poor communities are also vulnerable to sexual exploitation. According to the government, business owners from Saint Lucia, India, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Cuba, and Russia are the most likely traffickers in the country. The government reported 80 Cuban medical workers assisted in the pandemic response during the reporting period. Cuban medical professionals working in Saint Lucia may have been forced to work by the Cuban government.