The Caribbean is tackling the rising problem of human trafficking head-on.
Saint Lucia’s national security minister, Phillip La Corbiniere, says it is simply a matter of time before marine police officers see more evidence of human trafficking on the seas and that the Police Marine Unit needs to be prepared for this.
“How you deal with persons who are interdicted, who are being smuggled for once reason or another, is going to be very important as you discharge your responsibilities. Good governance is going to have to be an important thread in how you deal with that type of situation on the sea,” he said.
Saint Lucia is currently trying its first human trafficking case in its courts. It involves a number of Asian students who were allegedly lured to the Caribbean for studies at a non-existent school. One of the victims expressed optimism that some headway is being made into the matter, with two lawyers provided to those affected.
“I feel good because … before there was no one representing us, but at least there is someone representing us and I feel good. Good feelings,” says Selisha Chhetri of Nepal, one of the scam victims stranded on the island.
Other Caribbean islands have been recording some success in their anti-trafficking efforts. In 2014, Dominica dismantled a human trafficking network that smuggled people from the English speaking island to the neighboring French island of Guadeloupe.
The government of Grenada introduced tough anti-trafficking legislation in 2014.
In July 2015, Antigua’s government confirmed it had discovered and stopped two human trafficking rings, which were taking Cubans and Syrians to the United States Virgin Islands via Antigua.
In the past year, the St. Lucia government increased efforts to investigate traffickers. The government prohibits all forms of trafficking through the Counter-Trafficking Act, which prescribes punishments of five to 10 years’ imprisonment with fines of up to 100,000 Eastern Caribbean dollars (US$37,000).