U.S. State Depart­ment: Of­fi­cials Aid Hu­man Traf­fick­ing!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

By Toni Ni­cholas

As far back as 2013 the United States had placed Saint Lu­cia (among six other Caribbean is­lands) on a watch­list for hu­man traf­fick­ing. In its 2013 Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons (TIP) Re­port, the US Depart­ment of State placed six CARICOM coun­tries – Bar­ba­dos, Guyana, Haiti, St. Lu­cia, Suri­name, and Trinidad and Tobago–on its Tier 2 Watch List.

An­other four—An­tigua and Bar­buda, Belize, Ja­maica, and St. Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines—have been listed on the Tier 2 List.

In dis­tin­guish­ing the two lists Wash­ing­ton de­fines coun­tries on the Tier 2 Watch List as hav­ing gov­ern­ments that “do not fully com­ply” with the min­i­mum stan­dards in its Traf­fick­ing Vic­tims Pro­tec­tion Act (TVPA) but are mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant ef­forts to bring them­selves into com­pli­ance with those stan­dards, and the ab­so­lute num­ber of vic­tims of se­vere forms of traf­fick­ing is, among other things, “very sig­nif­i­cant or is sig­nif­i­cantly in­creas­ing.”

Coun­tries on the Tier 2 List, on the other hand, are those whose gov­ern­ments do not com­ply fully with the TVPA’s min­i­mum stan­dards but are mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant ef­forts to bring them­selves into com­pli­ance with those stan­dards.

The State Depart­ment con­sid­ered Trinidad and Tobago a des­ti­na­tion and tran­sit coun­try for adults and chil­dren sub­jected to sex traf­fick­ing, and adults sub­jected to forced labour.

“As a hub for re­gional travel,” the re­ported noted, “Trinidad and Tobago is a po­ten­tial tran­sit point for traf­fick­ing vic­tims trav­el­ling to Caribbean and South Amer­i­can des­ti­na­tions.” As an is­land­na­tion out­side the hur­ri­cane belt, the re­port noted, “Trinidad and Tobago ex­pe­ri­ences a steady flow of ves­sels tran­sit­ing its ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters, some of which may be en­gaged in il­licit ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing forced la­bor in the global fish­ing in­dus­try. “Fur­ther­more, ex­perts re­ported that traf­fick­ingre­lated com­plic­ity of public of­fi­cials sig­nif­i­cantly ham­pered the gov­ern­ment’s abil­ity to ef­fec­tively ad­dress the traf­fick­ing prob­lem in Trinidad and Tobago.”

The State Depart­ment de­scribes Guyana as “a source and des­ti­na­tion coun­try for men, women, and chil­dren sub­jected to sex traf­fick­ing and forced la­bor.” More­over, that in Guyana women and girls both for­eign and lo­cal are forced into pros­ti­tu­tion.

In the last two months alone Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Saint Lu­cia have fea­tured promi­nently in the news in re­la­tion to hu­man traf­fick­ing. In Fe­bru­ary four East In­dian men were ar­rested and charged here with hu­man traf­fick­ing. The four al­legedly lured sev­eral stu­dents here from Nepal and In­dia and the Philip­ines with of­fers of em­ploy­ment while they stud­ied at Lam­birds Academy, a school that had been en­dorsed by sev­eral gov­ern­ment agen­cies. Some 70 stu­dents who say they were conned have been stranded here, sus­tained by the gen­eros­ity of the Pas­toral Cen­ter and DBS-TV.

Last Satur­day seven of the stu­dents who had been stay­ing at a Gros Islet etab­lish­ment were re­ported miss­ing. Three days later they were taken into cus­tody by au­thor­i­ties in Gre­nada. Re­ports say they went to the Spice Is­land by boat even though their pass­ports were in the hands of the Saint Lu­cian po­lice.

It has also been re­ported that an African who had en­tered Gre­nada via Trinidad was also de­tained with the stu­dents. Un­con­firmed sto­ries sug­gest the stu­dents may have been en route to Venezuela,via Trinidad or Guyana.

Just last month law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties in Guyana stum­bled upon a hu­man traf­fick­ing ring in­volv­ing Nepal na­tion­als. This dis­cov­ery proved a ma­jor con­cern for the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs. In a state­ment the min­istry said its pol­icy is to take strong and de­ci­sive ac­tion against hu­man traf­fick­ers.

In Saint Lu­cia, mean­while, the op­er­a­tors of the now shut­down Lam­birds Academy re­main be­hind bars while po­lice con­tinue their in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Last week, McHale An­drew of In­vest Saint Lu­cia pub­licly de­clared that no one at his of­fice had any­thing to hide when it came to the estab­lish­ment of the academy at the heart of the hu­man rights traf­fick­ing scan­dal. The min­is­ter for ed­u­ca­tion and labour has told re­porters sim­i­larly.

Still, it re­mains un­clear how the Bangladeshi op­er­a­tor of the school ac­quired his visas to en­ter and work in Saint Lu­cia. Even more in­trigu­ing, how he ob­tained pa­pers to fa­cil­i­tate the ar­rival in this coun­try of stu­dents from In­dia, Nepal and the Philip­ines.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port in a Nepalese news­pa­per, the stu­dents are vic­tims who came to Saint Lu­cia through home-based firms in­clud­ing Per­cep­tion Ed­u­ca­tion Con­sul­tancy, Sig­nif­i­cant Ed­u­ca­tion Con­sul­tancy, Ex­cel­lent Ed­u­ca­tion Con­sul­tancy Ser­vices and Euro Im­mi­gra­tion, the last men­tioned based in Kathmandu. The pa­per quoted one re­turned dis­il­lu­sioned stu­dent as say­ing: “We paid thou­sands of dol­lars af­ter we were con­vinced the pro­cess­ing was real. Ev­ery­thing looked so real.”

Un­til they ar­rived in Saint Lu­cia, that is. Three days af­ter the ar­rival of the last batch of stu­dents in Jan­uary this year, some of the stu­dents called in the po­lice—at which point the cookie be­gan to crum­ble. Mean­while it is un­clear what the gov­ern­ment plans to do about the re­main­ing stu­dents, now hu­man traf­fick­ing vic­tims and po­ten­tial wit­nesses in a court case that could in­volve ac­cused gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials!

Na­tional Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Philip La Cor­binere: Is he do­ing enough to en­sure that Saint Lu­cia’s bor­ders be­come less por­ous to

Hu­man Traf­fick­ing?

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