What Are We Do­ing About The Hu­man Traf­fick­ers In Our Midst?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Kayra Wil­liams stan­dards.” Ter­rance’s suc­cess­ful pros­e­cu­tion.” dis­as­ter.”

When it comes to hu­man traf­fick­ing, Saint Lu­cia re­mains dodgy ter­ri­tory. That sen­ti­ment was at the heart of an ad­dress de­liv­ered sev­eral weeks ago by Leonard Ter­rence, Deputy Di­rec­tor at the Borde­lais Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity. For four years Saint Lu­cia has been on the U.S. State Depart­ment’s Tier Two Watch List, a fact that sur­prised Ter­rence's au­di­ence at the UWI hosted St Lu­cia Country Con­fer­ence, since there have been no re­ported lo­cal prose­cu­tions of hu­man traf­fick­ing cases. It turns out that a country can be clas­si­fied as Tier 2 if “the ab­so­lute num­ber of victims of se­vere forms of traf­fick­ing is very sig­nif­i­cant or is sig­nif­i­cantly in­creas­ing; if there is a fail­ure to pro­vide ev­i­dence of in­creas­ing ef­forts to com­bat se­vere forms of traf­fick­ing in per­sons from the pre­vi­ous year; or the de­ter­mi­na­tion that a country is mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant ef­forts to bring it­self into com­pli­ance with min­i­mum stan­dards was based on com­mit­ments by the country to take ad­di­tional fu­ture steps over the next year.”

The State Depart­ment’s Tier 2 List also in­cludes “coun­tries whose gov­ern­ments do not fully com­ply with the TVPA’s min­i­mum stan­dards, but are mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant ef­forts to bring them­selves into com­pli­ance with those 'Per­cep­tion of the Preva­lence of Hu­man Traf­fick­ing (HT)/ Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons in St. Lu­cia and the Mea­sures the Agen­cies are Im­ple­ment­ing to Coun­ter­act this Prob­lem,' sought to give the au­di­ence a clearer un­der­stand­ing of the of­fence, as well as high­light the ef­forts cur­rently be­ing un­der­taken to im­prove Saint Lu­cia’s in­ter­na­tional stand­ing.

“Hu­man track­ing does not only oc­cur from one country to the next,” said Ter­rence, “it can oc­cur in­ter­nally… dis­tance does not mat­ter. What is im­por­tant is the ac­tiv­ity in­volved. The in­di­vid­ual is forced; the in­di­vid­ual is threat­ened; the in­di­vid­ual is held against his or her will . . . for what? For the pur­poses of ex­ploit­ing that in­di­vid­ual. Once you can put these three el­e­ments to­gether,” Ter­rence main­tained, “then you have a case.” Ter­rance noted that cases of hu­man traf­fick­ing were of­ten dif­fi­cult to cap­ture be­cause the data is not al­ways avail­able.

“In­di­vid­u­als of­ten have the fi­nances to sub­vert jus­tice,” Ter­rence ob­served. “The victims them­selves may not be forth­com­ing and some­times one might con­fuse be­tween mi­grants and hu­man traf­fick­ing. We see a lot of things hap­pen­ing that sig­nal there might be an is­sue, but with­out the proper ar­rest and pros­e­cu­tion of these in­di­vid­u­als we ba­si­cally don’t know.”

At the re­called ses­sion at­ten­dants were en­cour­aged to speak up about their own ex­pe­ri­ences. One man claimed to have en­coun­tered a group of for­eign women who in­formed him they were here to work, but didn’t have their pass­ports. An­other said he’d given a ride to a lo­cal woman who ca­su­ally in­formed him she was on her way to work at a strip club. She re­vealed, “peo­ple like you can’t go there.” The man claimed he was in­structed how to dress, and fur­nished with di­rec­tions to the strip joint. A fe­male mem­ber of Ter­rence's au­di­ence won­dered aloud why the po­lice ap­peared not to have as much in­for­ma­tion about lo­cal crime as reg­u­lar res­i­dents.

Ter­rence seemed to go into de­fense mode: “That par­tic­u­lar night­club you men­tioned, well the po­lice closed it down. But guess what? No­body was charged with hu­man traf­fick­ing. Pa­trons ac­tu­ally vis­ited the club by boat to reach there. It's not that the au­thor­i­ties don't have their sus­pi­cions. But it’s one thing to sus­pect and quite an­other ac­quir­ing the ev­i­dence that will lead to ar­rest and There was also the prob­lem of cases tak­ing years to get to court. Ter­rence said sus­pects of­ten had the money to hire lawyers who could eas­ily get them off on var­i­ous tech­ni­cal­i­ties. Of­ten, he ex­pressed, the eas­i­est thing to do was shut down the strip club and hope it didn't re­open at a new ad­dress.

Ter­rence ref­er­enced an in­ci­dent in Ja­maica where the head of the Hu­man Traf­fick­ing Unit had ex­pe­ri­enced great dif­fi­culty tak­ing a high-pro­file case be­fore a judge and jury. “He put his life on the line,” said Ter­rence. “He had to fly from Ja­maica to Guyana, then to Trinidad to get af­fi­davits . . . Such travel costs money, in­ves­ti­ga­tions cost money . . . money that po­lice agen­cies don’t have.”

Ter­rence cited a lo­cal case of sus­pected hu­man traf­fick­ing cur­rently un­der­way, in­volv­ing Rus­sians. At one point when business wasn't go­ing so well, the women were re­port­edly forced to en­tice men from the streets in Gros Islet into their club. But there are peo­ple be­hind these women, ac­cord­ing to Ter­rence, men with guns to their heads, so to speak. In sus­pected hu­man traf­fick­ing cases, pass­ports are of­ten taken away, and as com­pelling as the ev­i­dence, the prison deputy di­rec­tor said the cases were no easy mat­ter for the po­lice, un­der-fi­nanced and un­der­manned as they are.

The ques­tion arose: How then to im­prove Saint Lu­cia’s Tier 2 stand­ing? “If we some­how suc­cess­fully pros­e­cute the cur­rent case, it will be a move in the right di­rec­tion. Se­con­dar­ily, we have en­acted the ap­pro­pri­ate leg­is­la­tion. Thirdly, we have a very ac­tive com­mit­tee fight­ing hu­man traf­fick­ing here. As I men­tioned, if we can suc­cess­fully pros­e­cute this on-go­ing case, if we can iden­tify more victims, and if we can res­cue one of the victims we can move to a Tier 1 list. But if for what­ever rea­sons we seem to be do­ing noth­ing about hu­man traf­fick­ing in Saint Lu­cia, we could be­come a kind of haven for such crimes. And for us as a na­tion that will spell

Borde­lais Deputy Di­rec­tor Leonard Ter­rence says there is much to be done to im­prove St Lu­cia's in­ter­na­tional hu­man traf­fick­ing stand­ing.

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