BBC Caribbean
March 10, 2004

Martiniquans 'equally to blame for crime wave'

St. Lucia’s Attorney General Petrus Compton says that Martiniquans are as much to blame for the wave of serious crimes being attributed to St. Lucians on the French island.

Mr Compton told BBC Caribbean Service the St. Lucian criminals were not working alone.

"We keep arguing that the persons who commit the crimes... are met by their Martiniquan accomplices. They are taken to safe houses, they are facilitated with vehicles and when they commit the offences they run back to St. Lucia and split the loot," Mr Compton said.

The attorney general was speaking following the signing of a joint security agreement between St. Lucia and Martinique to deal with increasing cross-border crime.

Government representatives met in Martinique on Friday and formed the Franco-St. Lucian Joint Security Committee (JFC).

Mr Compton who is on the committee, said the agreement covers setting up common initiatives in areas such as cooperation in maritime interdiction, the fight against drugs and trafficking in arms and ammunition, and cooperation against illegal immigration.

The JFC agreement follows mounting concern over the large number of St. Lucians who commit serious crime on the French island.

Recently, 83 St. Lucians were in Martinique prisons charged with serious crimes.

There has been growing concern that the situation would affect relations between the two islands and aversely affect a visa waiver agreement in place since 2000.

The agreement allows St. Lucians to stay in the French islands for up to 15 days without a visa.

The French have expressed concern that many St. Lucians are abusing the waiver scheme.

"The persons who commit the crimes don't go through authorised ports of entry they don't come in and present a passport, have it stamped and stay for 15 days. They enter at night under the cover of darkness," Mr Compton said.

"If we can get our joint maritime patrols going we will be able to intercept many more of the little boats that leave the coast of St. Lucia frequently at night to land persons illegally in Martinique. It means a lot of them that come back with the firearms from Martinique we should be able to intercept them."