Saint Lucia, with a population of approximately 180,000, recorded 3,390 cases and 36 related deaths of COVID-19 as of 1 March 2021. The Caribbean country, similar to many neighbours, appeared to fare well with managing the number of cases during the initial months of the pandemic, reporting only 353 cases and 5 deaths by the end of 2020. However, a sudden rise in positive cases and deaths occurred in January 2021, and the country declared a State of Emergency on 3 February 2021.
Saint Lucia reported its first case on 13 March 2020, after which it ceased allowing entry of international arrivals, schools were closed, and non-essential business was halted. Its borders were opened again on 4 June 2020, but only for those willing to provide a negative COVID-19 test result and stay in government-mandated quarantine. Officials made arrests of people seeking to enter on unauthorised boat arrivals throughout much of the year, and officials explicitly linked the dangers of unregulated migration to COVID-19. Accordion to one news article (Loop News 13 November 2020), the president blamed “Illegal or ‘backdoor’ entry … for the recent spike in COVID-19 cases on the island” even though there had been “no conclusive links of any COVID-19 positive cases to illegal entry.”
The recent outbreak has particularly impacted people in prisons. Eight cases and one death had been confirmed at Bordelais Correctional Facility (BCF) as of February 2021. The reported lack of information and perceived lack of protection provided to inmates has led to strife inside the prison: a hunger strike by inmates was reported on 1 February 2021 after reports of positive cases linked to kitchens. Inmates in possession of mobile phones voiced COVID-related frustrations on social media livestreams and complained about the length of their pretrial detention. The Director of Corrections of BCF responded saying that “COVID-19 was the least of their priorities. They took advantage of this COVID-19 period to highlight some of their issues.”
Saint Lucia has not established a national human rights institution (NHRI) in accordance with the Paris Principles, but in 2019 it set up a National Mechanism for Reporting and Follow Up (NMRF) called “National Coordinating Committee for Human Rights.” Human rights issues have been reported in the island’s prisons, namely of violence perpetrated by prison and police officers against detainees, as well as allegations of lacking clean drinking water, and general mistreatment. Prolonged pretrial detention, lasting from six months to six years, has also been noted as a problem.
Saint Lucia does not have legal provisions for providing protection to asylum seekers and refugees.