The Dominican Republic is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Large numbers of Dominican women and children are subjected to sex trafficking throughout the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean, Europe, South and Central America, the Middle East, Asia, and the United States. Additionally, the commercial sexual exploitation of local children by foreign tourists is a problem, particularly in coastal resort areas of the Dominican Republic. Dominican and foreign women in exotic dancing and in prostitution are highly vulnerable to sex trafficking within the country. Dominican officials and NGOs have documented cases of children forced into domestic service, street vending, begging, agricultural work, construction, and moving of illicit narcotics. The large populations of working children and street children are highly vulnerable to forced labor and sex trafficking. There are reports of forced labor of adults in construction, agricultural, and service sectors. The large population of undocumented or stateless persons of Haitian descent in the country is particularly vulnerable to trafficking. A 2013 Constitutional Tribunal ruling denies Dominican citizenship to a broad group of people (mostly of Haitian descent) born in the Dominican Republic; tens of thousands of workers who fall into this category may be more susceptible to abuse, with some unwilling to report instances of human trafficking due to heightened fear of deportation.
The Government of the Dominican Republic does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government prosecuted an increased number of labor and sex trafficking defendants, including a police officer, and punished offenders with imprisonment. While victim protection remained inadequate, the government implemented a policy to provide temporary residence permits to foreign victims. The government lacked a nationwide anti-trafficking awareness campaign, but established an entity to improve coordination of anti-trafficking efforts.
Recommendations for the Dominican Republic:
Vigorously prosecute trafficking offenses and convict and punish offenders involved in adult and child forced labor and sex trafficking, especially government employees complicit in forced prostitution or forced labor; continue robust victim identification efforts by working with NGOs to guide labor ministry officials in how to identify trafficking victims (especially adult and child victims in the sex trade and in the agriculture and construction sectors) and refer them to available services; identify and assist adult and child forced labor victims and those impacted by the 2013 Constitutional Tribunal ruling on citizenship; work with NGOs to provide adequate shelter and services to adult and child victims; fund specialized services for adult and child trafficking victims; and implement a forced labor and forced prostitution awareness campaign in Spanish and Creole that targets trafficking victims and the demand for commercial sex acts and forced labor, and provides instruction for reporting human trafficking cases.
The government demonstrated significant progress in law enforcement efforts by increasing the number of prosecutions and convictions related to human trafficking compared with the previous year; however, official complicity remained a serious concern. Law 137-03 of 2003 prohibits all forms of human trafficking and prescribes penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment with fines—penalties sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
The government investigated at least 58 potential trafficking cases in 2013. Authorities initiated 13 forced labor prosecutions, up from two forced labor prosecutions in the previous period, and 24 sex trafficking prosecutions, an increase from two during the previous reporting period. The government convicted three traffickers on forced begging charges and sentenced the offenders to two years’ imprisonment. The government convicted six sex traffickers with sentences ranging from two years to 15 years’ imprisonment. This was an increase from two forced begging convictions and one sex trafficking conviction the previous year.
Official complicity in human trafficking remained a serious concern. The government reported one prosecution of a police officer for participating in a sex trafficking ring that included children; the officer was placed in pre-trial detention. The government cooperated with governments in Europe and the Western Hemisphere on investigations of transnational human trafficking cases. The National Judicial College offered an anti-trafficking class, and the attorney general’s office reported offering training for 20 prosecutors on fundamentals of human trafficking.
The government sustained limited victim protection efforts. The special prosecutor’s office reported identifying a total of 60 sex trafficking victims and one forced labor victim compared to 77 victims identified the previous year; 27 victims were women, one was a man, and 33 were children. NGOs identified 44 victims. The government reported that it referred 12 victims to care facilities for assistance during the reporting period. Although the government provided some assistance to victims, it did so in an ad hoc manner and funding for victim assistance appeared inadequate. The government did not provide an exact figure of funds spent on trafficking victim protection and assistance. The government, with significant assistance from donor-funded international organizations, faith-based groups, and NGOs, provided psychological assistance, legal assistance, reintegration, medical services, education, and temporary accommodation in general shelters for crime victims. The government’s national council for children operated eight shelters for abused children that accommodated trafficking victims and provided education, health care, and psychological care. There were reports of inadequate security and staffing for these shelters. The labor ministry did not report identifying any labor trafficking victims, even in the high risk sectors such as agriculture and construction. The government established a new government-wide protocol aimed at helping officials identify trafficking victims and refer them to government trafficking specialists.
The government’s anti-trafficking law contains victim protection provisions, including restitution; there were no reports that victims received compensation. The government encouraged victims’ participation in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking. The anti-trafficking law authorized the attorney general to grant victims immunity from criminal prosecution for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to human trafficking, if they cooperate with authorities. There were no reports of victims being punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. The attorney general’s office signed and implemented an agreement with the directorate general of migration to provide temporary residence permission for foreign trafficking victims; for the first time, authorities granted a one-year visa to a foreign labor trafficking victim.
The government made moderate prevention efforts. While the government did not have a nationwide anti-trafficking awareness campaign directed at residents and visitors, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued its campaign to educate Dominican nationals living abroad about trafficking, and an international organization reported an increase in the number of complaints received as a result of this campaign. The attorney general created a specialized office on human trafficking in 2013 with a mandate that included the coordination of government anti-trafficking efforts and provision of technical assistance to prosecutors in the effective protection of victims and witnesses. The government operated a national hotline to receive reports of human trafficking cases and gender-based violence.
The Dominican government, with assistance from a foreign government, maintained a specialized police unit empowered to vigorously investigate and prosecute child sex tourism cases in the Dominican Republic; the government reported at least one investigation of alleged child sex tourists during the reporting period. The government took some efforts to reduce the demand by foreigners for commercial sex acts in the Dominican Republic. For example, in October 2013, the government implemented a program to train immigration officials to deny entry to visitors with child sex tourism and other sex crime convictions. The government reported denying entry to 39 visitors with such convictions.