PRESS RELEASE – (Statement by the Minister for Home Affairs, Justice and National Security on Saint Lucia’s joint hosting of the Capacity Building and Public Awareness Workshop on Counter-Trafficking, November 14 – 15, 2017)
The Government of Saint Lucia is a new member of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). We joined in 2015, two years ago.
We joined because we recognized that should the State let down its guard, the island can easily be utilized as a source, destination and a transit point of victims of human trafficking.
Trafficking in persons is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad.
Almost every country in the world is affected by trafficking, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as guardian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), and the Protocols thereto, assists States in their efforts to implement the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons.
The Government of Saint Lucia is currently engaged in rolling out a three-year technical assistance project that will be facilitated through funding and support by the IOM Development Fund, (IDF).
A key objective is to build local capacity on counter-trafficking measures. Our efforts will involve a nationwide awareness campaign, designed to deliver key messages and rouse public interests in this issue.
Other key components of the technical assistance will comprise the development of a manual on trafficking in persons which will be invaluable to our sensitization efforts well beyond the lifespan of the project.
We are also looking forward to the eventual development of a database to manage and process information relating to detecting any red flags or actual cases of human trafficking which might appear on our radar. I say “radar” because there will be a focus on increased vigilance for red flags or possible signs of trafficking in persons.
The involvement of the public and private sectors, and importantly non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the trafficking in persons agenda is an initiative in its early stages, but that, too, we believe will gain momentum. It can be reported that the NGOs were quite active in the consultative stages leading up to the workshop.
Significantly, Saint Lucia has passed legislation as part of its counter-trafficking measures.
The Counter-Trafficking Act of 2015 has been implemented. The door is never shut on fine-tuning legislation to ensure it does the right job. In addition, Saint Lucia has also developed a National Action Plan Against Trafficking in Persons to be implemented through the TIP Task Force. Who they are (the Task Force) and what they do will be greatly magnified as the project gains momentum.
I want to stress that we must never think we are too small for certain issues to impact us. Denial will only cause us to keep ourselves unprepared and vulnerable to negative developments that we can well avoid or address way in advance, should we respond proactively.
Just take, for example, the issue of climate change and the unprecedented impact of the Atlantic Hurricane Season on the Caribbean. Historic Category 5 hurricanes have left many Caribbean islands in shambles, confronted with significant humanitarian challenges from which recovery will be a long-term ordeal.
I was in Dominica just a couple of days after Hurricane Maria when things were in a very, very raw state of affairs. This experience brought me face to face once again with the reality that we cannot tell ourselves, as Small Island States (SIDS), that we are divorced from global issues. A similar concern applies as it relates to trafficking in persons. The conversation is ours and we must bring it home to our own people.
I know that grappling with a myriad of global issues at once is something that most of us are not used to and it may seem overwhelming at times. Yet, in an environment so filled with emerging global threats, coupled with our own challenges at home, to be unresponsive is a luxury we cannot afford.
As local advocates and actors against Trafficking in Human Beings (THB), we are not fighting alone. The United Nations, the International Organization for Migration, (IOM), and the ACP EU Migration Action have been instrumental in assisting the island in that regard.
In closing, I wish to re-emphasise that trafficking in persons is a violation of human rights and the destruction of the human soul. I can unwaveringly state, as Minister for Home Affairs and National Security, that the Government of Saint Lucia is committed to doing all it can to ensure that this crime is not propagated here.