HAITI: Tier 2 Watch List
Haiti is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Most of Haiti’s trafficking cases consist of children in domestic servitude vulnerable to beatings, sexual assaults, and other abuses by individuals in the homes in which they are residing. A significant number of dismissed and runaway child domestic servants end up in prostitution or are forced into begging or street crime. Citizens of the Dominican Republic are exploited in sex trafficking and forced labor in Haiti. Other vulnerable populations include: low-income Haitians; children working in construction, agriculture, fisheries, and street vending; women and children living in camps for internally displaced persons set up as a result of the 2010 earthquake; female-headed or single-parent families; children in unscrupulous private and NGO-sponsored residential care centers; and Haitians without documentation, including those returning from the Dominican Republic or The Bahamas. Haitians are vulnerable to fraudulent labor recruitment abroad. Haitian children are exploited in prostitution, domestic servitude, agriculture, construction, and forced begging in the Dominican Republic. Haitian adults and children are exploited in forced labor primarily in the Dominican Republic, other Caribbean countries, South America, and the United States. Deficiencies and corruption in the judicial system impair efforts to prosecute criminals, including traffickers.
The Government of Haiti does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Haiti is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a fourth consecutive year. Haiti was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. The government reported four investigations and prosecuted two suspects under Haiti’s 2014 anti-trafficking law and identified 22 potential trafficking victims, a significant increase from the number identified in 2013. The government also developed a new national anti-trafficking action plan. The government has not convicted any traffickers and identified and assisted few victims of forced labor compared to the scope of the problem. The government lacked adequate victim identification and referral procedures and relied on NGOs to assist victims with minimal government support.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR HAITI:
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence traffickers, including those responsible for domestic servitude and child sex trafficking; implement the new national anti-trafficking action plan; increase funding for trafficking victim assistance, including by working with the donor community to develop long-term, sustainable funding mechanisms for trafficking victim service providers; enforce provisions to guarantee victims are not detained or penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking; continue to train police, prosecutors, and judges on trafficking; and in partnership with NGOs, adopt and employ formal procedures to guide officials in proactive victim identification and referral of child and adult victims to appropriate shelters and services.
The government made progress in anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, but continued to lack any trafficking convictions. In June 2014, authorities enacted Law No. CL/2014-0010, which prohibits all forms of human trafficking and prescribes penalties of seven to 15 years’ imprisonment. The law provides for increased penalties of up to life imprisonment for human trafficking committed with aggravating circumstances, such as if the victim is a child or the trafficker is a public official, among other circumstances. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The judiciary’s systemic weaknesses and vulnerability to corruption hampered implementation of the law. Laws criminalizing trafficking-related crimes, such as abuse of children or prostitution, may be used to hold traffickers accountable, although there were no reports that traffickers were ever convicted under these laws. In contrast with the previous three reporting periods, the government reported four investigations and two prosecutions involving two suspected traffickers using the new law. One case involved the attempted labor trafficking of 17 children and the other involved sex trafficking of three foreign girls and two women. One of the two suspects was placed in pre-trial detention, and authorities issued an arrest warrant for the second suspect. After the judge’s mandate expired in the first case, the government reassigned the case to ensure the investigation could move forward. At the close of the reporting period, no traffickers had been convicted. Law enforcement pursued a third investigation initially believed to be a human trafficking case, but it was subsequently prosecuted under other charges. In a fourth case, a U.S. citizen was investigated and charged for alleged crimes against children, including potential trafficking; but the charges were later dropped. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses. The government continued efforts to train new police cadets on human rights issues, and to improve the response to crimes, including trafficking, against marginalized groups.
The government sustained some efforts to identify and assist trafficking victims. The government did not systematically track data regarding trafficking victim identification, but reported working with NGOs to reunify more than 250 child domestic workers in exploitative situations with their families. Haitian authorities identified five potential foreign victims and 17 potential Haitian victims and worked with an international organization to facilitate the voluntary return of foreign victims. In 2014, Haitian officials removed some children from vulnerable situations and placed them in appropriate care; however, NGOs noted some children placed in transitional homes did not receive adequate assistance. Authorities did not adopt stand-alone, government-wide procedures to guide all front-line responders in the identification and referral of potential victims. Observers noted officials’ ability to identify victims, in the absence of such guidelines, varied widely. The government also did not have standard protocols to conduct forced labor inspections. The government improved referral by establishing eight child protection and eight women protection referral networks, which include referral for trafficking victims.
NGOs provided the majority of victim care services without government funds. Labor and social welfare inspectors often lacked basic materials and reliable transport. The budget for the Institute for Social Welfare and Research (IBESR) was insufficient to cover the basic protection needs of children throughout Haiti, including trafficking victims. Two state institutions provided care for vulnerable children, some of whom were at risk of becoming trafficking victims, but authorities did not report if any trafficking victims were housed at these facilities in 2014. The government did not offer any specific services for adult victims. The government did not have a formal program to assist victims who returned to Haiti. In preparation for potential increased migration across the border after the June 15 deadline for registration of migrant workers in the Dominican Republic, the government began coordinating efforts with international organizations and NGOs to receive potential expellees. Concurrently, the government continued to work with the Government of the Dominican Republic to ensure that any expulsions were conducted in a measured and humane manner. The 2014 anti-trafficking law establishes formal victim protection policies to encourage trafficking victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders and prohibits penalizing victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. However, observers reported law enforcement officials sometimes detained children before they were transferred to social services. The law provides immigration relief for foreign victims of human trafficking; however, authorities had not used the provision because the identified foreign national victims chose to return to their country of origin.
The government sustained efforts to prevent trafficking. Authorities adopted a national anti-trafficking action plan spanning March 2015 through 2017. An informal inter-ministerial working group to coordinate governmental anti-trafficking efforts met during the reporting period, as did the national commission for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor. With foreign government funding, the government launched a national anti-trafficking awareness campaign as a series of radio spots on the 2014 anti-trafficking law, trafficking indicators, and sanctions for traffickers. The government managed a social services hotline, and authorities conducted 52 investigations stemming from hotline calls, including four for potential trafficking. The government also continued a campaign to raise public awareness about child labor, child trafficking, and other child protection concerns. IBESR closed five residential care centers in 2014 that were operating in violation of international standards, and removed children from exploitative situations where they were exposed to a high risk of human trafficking. The government also continued a partnership with community representatives to monitor night clubs for sexual exploitation. The 2014 anti-trafficking law includes sanctions for individuals who knowingly procure commercial sex acts from trafficking victims, but authorities had not used the sanctions to hold purchasers accountable and did not report efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. Authorities did not report any convictions for child sex tourism.