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Contact: Claudia Monlouis

Tuesday, November 01, 2005 - The Division of Gender Relations in the Ministry of Health, Human Services and Family Affairs has underscored the need for Saint Lucians to be further educated on the scourge of human trafficking. Two recently convened workshops by the Division of Gender Relations, held in the north and south of the island centred on human trafficking. The workshops addressed the roles that the public and private sectors and members of the society can undertake in order to curb the growth of human trafficking.

Gender Relations Officer Charms Gaspard says as regional borders become less defined, it becomes more pressing for persons to understand such issues. “This is being done by raising awareness and boosting information dissemination on the scope, characteristics and the risk of trafficking particularly among vulnerable groups, government agencies and civil societies in general. We are also working on building local capacity to identify and assist victims of trafficking.”

Ms. Gaspard says locally human trafficking is not being viewed as a significant problem. However she says there is cause for concern in several circles. “There are several push factors such as unemployment, the prospect of higher earnings in another country among others which makes us vulnerable as a country of origin. Where unsuspecting individuals can be trafficked out of the country or may travel to another country and fall victim to human trafficking.”

The workshops were held on October 13th and 20th and were reportedly very well attended.
Meanwhile the Division of Gender Relations is continuing its quest to sensitize the nation on the dangers of human trafficking. Following on the workshops to sensitise key persons to impart such knowledge to the general public, Gender Relations Officer Charms Gaspard says educators and the media should assist in disseminating factual information.

The department says the public should be trained to look out for the red flags, including carefully crafted advertisements used as a means to attract would be victims. These are usually presented through the Internet and other media. Ms. Gaspard says this is why the issue of advertisements or commercials was addressed at the recent workshops. “We presented persons with very attractive advertisements and basically had them to tell us how they impacted on them and to gauge their reaction.”

While legislation against human trafficking is still in the pipeline, the Gender Relations Department views information as the best tool to go hand in hand with the law. “Immigration officers and law enforcement officers were among those expressing concern about the lack of legislation to deal directly with the issue of human trafficking. However although there is not legislation pertaining to trafficking specifically, there are other areas that persons can be prosecuted under our criminal code; for example for labour, servitude or slavery,” says Gaspard.

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