File photo: Is human trafficking on the rise in the Caribbean, even in a time of travel restrictions? Some experts say yes.

CASTRIES, St. Lucia–November 6th, 2020–The St. Lucia Department of Home Affairs and National Security is alerting the citizenry that the implications of the coronavirus pandemic, may increase the cases of human trafficking globally.

Organizations such as the US State Department in its 2020 Report on Human Trafficking has raised concerns on the impact of the pandemic on human rights and on vulnerable populations.

Global trends have shown that dramatic increases in job losses and reductions in income, especially for tourism sector workers, and many other low wage employees could mean that significant numbers of people who were already vulnerable, find themselves in even more precarious circumstances.

In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, Minister for Home Affairs and National Security Senator Hon. Hermangild Francis has taken the opportunity to remind Saint Lucians to be vigilant, particularly when exploring too-good-to-be true job offers overseas.

“In as much as things are difficult for many of us and we definitely need to have a job and income for survival, let us do our best to remain safe from exploitation and to ensure that no one becomes a victim of human trafficking. Now is not the time to go into any situation blindly because there is more risk involved.”

In regard to Trafficking in Persons (TIP) traffickers are said to be adjusting their business models to the ‘new normal’ created by the pandemic, especially through the abuse of modern communications technologies.

In Saint Lucia, the hotline for reporting any suspected cases of Trafficking in Persons is 847. The authorities are encouraging the public to use this hotline number to report any suspected cases of human trafficking.

Information about the exact extent of human trafficking in the Caribbean is hard to find. It is known that prostitutes travel from the Dominican Republic to certain other locations, for example the legal brothels of the Dutch Caribbean islands, but whether they are coerced or willing volunteers cannot readily be determined from afar.

Some anti-trafficking organizations have suggested that women from Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are the most likely to become victims of sex-trafficking when they travel overseas, and in recent times it is likely that Venezuelans have become more vulnerable due the economic and social unrest in that nation.

However, it could also be argued that the decline of international tourism in the era of Covid-19 will have reduced demand for trafficked women/

Accurate information about other forms of human trafficking, such as exploitation of migrant laborers and domestic helpers is even harder to come by.