SAINT LUCIA (Tier 2)

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. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Saint Lucia was upgraded to Tier 2. These efforts included initiating a prosecution for the first time since 2015, increasing investigations, designating one trafficking-specific prosecutor with the ability to fast track cases, and cooperating with neighboring countries on two cases. The government also identified four victims for the first time since 2020 and provided them services, drafted and began implementing a new NAP, enabled witnesses in trafficking cases to testify remotely, screened at-risk Cuban medical workers for trafficking indicators and reviewed their contracts, and restarted an anti-trafficking hotline. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government has never convicted a trafficker. Penalties under the Counter Trafficking Act, as amended, were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes. Resources and personnel for trafficking remained inadequate and the government did not effectively enforce its laws prohibiting forced or compulsory labor.

  • Continue to increase efforts to identify vulnerable individuals, especially children, migrants, and foreign workers; screen them for trafficking indicators and refer identified victims to services.
  • Continue to increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, convict, and punish traffickers 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.
  • Provide sufficient resources for anti-trafficking efforts.
  • Continue to reduce court backlog and pretrial detention delays affecting trafficking cases.
  • Develop and implement labor recruitment policies, hire and train more inspectors for labor trafficking inspections, update labor migration legislation as necessary, and improve interagency coordination on labor issues.
  • Continue to consistently use SOPs on a victim-centered approach with training for 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.

The government increased law enforcement efforts. The government enacted amendments to the Counter-Trafficking Act during the previous 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, not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

The government conducted four sex trafficking investigations, compared with one trafficking investigation in 2021, none in 2020, and three in 2019. The government initiated one sex trafficking prosecution under the anti-trafficking law, the first prosecution since 2015. The Magistrate held a hearing on the case in February 2023 and the matter was advanced to the High Court; the suspect was on bail awaiting trial at the end of the reporting period. The government has never convicted a trafficker. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes.

The Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) Major Crimes Unit investigated human trafficking and presented cases to the Director of Public Prosecutions. 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. The Magistrate Court heard initial trafficking cases prior to their advancement to the High Court. Observers reported the pandemic continued to exacerbate significant court backlogs and pretrial detention of defendants for all serious crimes, which could last as long as six years. There was no separate budget for trafficking cases and court resources remained limited. During the reporting period, the Director of Public Prosecutions assigned one Crown Counsel to assist with trafficking investigations and charge traffickers; the official also could fast track trafficking cases. The government implemented a hybrid system allowing select witnesses, such as medical professionals or witnesses residing out of the jurisdiction, to testify remotely, including for trafficking cases. The government cooperated with two neighboring countries on the new prosecution. The government cooperated with French authorities on an ongoing investigation involving two potential child victims. In January 2023, Canadian police charged three Saint Lucian men in a trafficking investigation in Canada for recruiting a 15-year-old girl for sex trafficking; the government did not report if it provided any assistance to the Canadian government in the case.

The government increased protection efforts. The government identified four Jamaican adult victims exploited in sex trafficking, compared with not identifying any victims for the last two years. The government provided medical care and shelter for three of the identified victims who subsequently left the country and repatriated the other victim. The government could provide legal aid for victims, but did not do so during the reporting period. The government reported NGOs provided the victims food and hygiene products. Authorities used victim identification and referral SOPs to identify the victims; 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 Cuban workers for trafficking indicators and the workers remained in possession of their passports and received their wages. 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. Observers reported police and other government employees, including those involved in health and welfare, generally lacked sensitization on child sex tourism and familial trafficking.

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 government reported using such special funding in the amount of 12,500 Eastern Caribbean Dollars ($4,630) to support trafficking victims during the reporting period; the government reported in general funding was sufficient for immediate victim needs but not for longer term care. The government worked with NGOs and encouraged them to report cases. The government did not maintain a dedicated shelter for trafficking victims but arranged and paid for trusted private sector accommodations when the need arose. Foreign and domestic adult victims could choose whether to stay in the accommodations or leave them at will. The government did not allow foreign victims to receive formal residency status because it considered them wards of the state. The government offered victims who were material witnesses in a criminal case to remain and work in the country. The anti-trafficking law mandated special provisions for child victims that could include ensuring 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 anti-trafficking law contained victim protection provisions, such as privacy measures, the ability to testify via video link, and witness protection, to encourage victim participation in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers. The government reported four victims cooperated in the prosecution of a suspected trafficker with statements provided to qualified social workers; the government reported it provided regular patrols and CCTV coverage at their accommodations. Children could also testify via video and have a guardian or social worker present during testimony and court proceedings. The anti-trafficking law provided judges could, upon conviction of a trafficker, order them to pay restitution and the government reported it could facilitate the payment of civil compensation to a victim. The government did not report using these provisions during the reporting period. Foreign victims had the same access to care as domestic victims. The government reported alerting a neighboring island to the impending arrival of three of the identified trafficking victims en route to the island. The Ministry of Home Affairs reported it supported training of task force members; forensic laboratory employees; police, immigration, health, labor, youth development, and family court personnel; and NGOs on victim identification; the police reported including victim-centric language in trafficking case intake practices for the first time as a result of the training.

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. With the support of the Prime Minister, the Ministries of Home Affairs and National Security led the task force consisting of relevant agencies and NGOs. The task force resumed in-person meetings in September 2022 and facilitated oversight and support for the four identified victims. The government reported the task force met weekly when there was an active case and quarterly otherwise. The government drafted and began to implement a new NAP for 2023-2026; the government consulted survivors on policies. The government reported spending 40,500 EC ($15,000) on prevention efforts and that it consulted with a subject matter expert on these programs. The task force continued a media campaign by issuing trafficking-related press releases, public service announcements, and social media posts promoting trafficking awareness and the anti-trafficking hotline. The hotline resumed operations in 2022, following its previous suspension due to the pandemic. The government trained additional police officers to respond to trafficking-related calls made to the general crime toll-free 24-hour hotline; the general hotline could receive calls in English and Saint Lucian Creole French. The government did not report any trafficking-related referrals from the hotlines during the reporting period. The government assessed its anti-trafficking training efforts. The government’s comprehensive study to provide recommendations for economic development plans to reduce the vulnerability of economically disadvantaged populations to trafficking and other crimes, initiated in 2020, remained ongoing at the end of the reporting period.

The government did not report any changes to its regulations and oversight of labor recruitment. The task force completed a review of Cuban medical workers’ contracts. 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, in the past the government did not enforce them effectively. Observers noted there were not enough trained labor inspectors to monitor all sectors for labor trafficking and 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. A revised draft of the Labor Act, which specified the Labor Department’s authorities and was first prepared in 2020, remained with the Attorney General for review at the end of the reporting period. Authorities reported all inspections examined for child labor, but they did not conduct child labor-specific inspections; inspectors did not receive child labor-specific training. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel.

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, often 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 for those – including children – negatively impacted economically. Foreign women in strip clubs and commercial sex, and documented and undocumented migrants from the Caribbean, are vulnerable to trafficking, including from People’s Republic of China (PRC) nationals. 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.

U.S. Department of State

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