HAITI: Tier 3
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 involve children in domestic servitude who often are physically abused, receive no payment for services rendered, and may be kept from school. A significant number of children flee employers’ homes or abusive families and become street children. A May 2015 UN report documented members of its peacekeeping mission in Haiti sexually exploited more than 225 Haitian women in exchange for food, medication, and household items between 2008 and 2014. Female foreign nationals, particularly citizens of the Dominican Republic, are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor in Haiti. Other vulnerable populations include Haitian children working in construction, agriculture, fisheries, domestic work, and street vending in Haiti and the Dominican Republic; women and children living in camps for internally displaced persons set up as a result of the 2010 earthquake; members of female-headed or other single-parent families; children in private and NGO-sponsored residential care centers; and Haitians without documentation, including those returning from the Dominican Republic or The Bahamas. Haitian adults and children are vulnerable to fraudulent labor recruitment and are subject to forced labor, primarily in the Dominican Republic, other Caribbean countries, South America, and the United States.
The Government of Haiti does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. Having been placed on Tier 2 Watch List in the preceding four years, Haiti is not making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards and is therefore placed on Tier 3. In December 2015, the government inaugurated the inter-ministerial anti-trafficking committee. The government also finalized its action plan, and investigated and prosecuted trafficking cases during the reporting period. However, the systemic weaknesses of the justice system in disposing of cases and the lack of funding for, and coordination among, government agencies impair efforts to prosecute traffickers. The government’s interagency effort to formalize victim identification and referral guidelines, like other priorities, gained little momentum due to the protracted political impasse over the scheduling of Haiti’s elections.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR HAITI:
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence traffickers, including those responsible for domestic servitude and child sex trafficking; resource and 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; train police, prosecutors, and judges on trafficking; in partnership with NGOs, adopt and employ formal procedures to guide officials in proactive victim identification and referral of victims to appropriate shelters and services; implement measures to address the vulnerabilities that lead to child domestic servitude, including protecting child victims of neglect, abuse, and violence; to counteract tolerance of child domestic servitude, educate the Haitian public about children’s rights to education and freedom from slavery; and draft and enact a child protection law with special protections for child trafficking victims.
The government sustained minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts and did not secure any trafficking convictions during the reporting period. The 2014 anti-trafficking law (No. CL/2014-0010) prohibits all forms of human trafficking and prescribes penalties of seven to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine ranging from 200,000 to 1,500,000 gourdes ($4,500 to $32,000). The law criminalizes sex trafficking, forced labor, and intentional retention of identification documents or passports for the purpose of committing trafficking-related offenses. 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 others. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.
During the reporting period, the government continued investigations and prosecutions of two previously reported cases. Authorities also initiated four new investigations and prosecutions—one potential sex trafficking case, two potential forced labor cases, and one potential sex and labor trafficking case—as compared to the last reporting period in which the government reported four investigations and two prosecutions. The Haitian Magistrate’s School collaborated with two U.S. government-funded organizations to develop a training curriculum on the anti-trafficking law and provided a venue for the training. Approximately 100 officials from the central directorate of judicial police, the Haitian Police Minors’ Protection Brigade, the social welfare agency, judges, prosecutors, and victim assistance groups participated in a two-day seminar to discuss the 2014 anti-trafficking law and its implementation. However, NGOs reported government personnel in some provinces lacked training on the anti-trafficking law and its implementation, resulting in lesser charges and informal arrangements to dispose of cases. The national anti-trafficking commission began drafting a proposal to the Ministry of Justice to create a specialized anti-trafficking law enforcement unit in the department of Hinche.
The government sustained minimal efforts to identify and assist trafficking victims. While the government did not systematically track data regarding trafficking victim identification, it reported identification of two potential trafficking victims; one Dominican child and one Haitian child. The government continued to provide assistance to a total of 97 child trafficking victims in 2015, including 17 potential victims identified in 2014. In 2015, Haitian officials removed some children, including some trafficking victims, from vulnerable situations and referred or placed them in appropriate care. One government shelter assisted at least 43 children, at least some of whom were child trafficking victims referred by the social welfare agency. Haitian authorities worked with an international organization to identify and assist hundreds of Haitian child domestic workers in exploitative situations.
The 2014 anti-trafficking law tasks the national anti-trafficking commission to develop standard operating procedures to guide officials in the identification and rehabilitation of trafficking victims; requires the government to provide protection and medical, psychological, and social services to trafficking victims; and creates a government-regulated fund to assist trafficking victims. NGO or international partners who came into contact with trafficking victims made ad hoc referrals directly to police or social welfare officials for assistance and case management. Social welfare officials worked with international and local NGO partners to assess the scope of care needed by the child victims and found organizations to provide that care, including medical and counseling services, family tracing services, pre-return assessments, family sensitization, and economic empowerment opportunities. The Haitian government operated two of the country’s 776 care centers focused on reducing the number of children living on the streets of the capital.
The government did not provide any specific services for adult or foreign victims. While the government did not provide detailed information on the amount it spent on victim protection, its funding remained insufficient to cover the basic protection needs of trafficking victims throughout Haiti. The ministries of labor and social welfare lacked staff and resources to inspect worksites for indicators of forced labor. The government did not have a formal program to assist victims who returned to Haiti. Authorities worked closely with the U.S. Coast Guard to receive deported migrants, screening unaccompanied children and facilitating their re-integration with family members. The law provides temporary residency during legal proceedings for foreign victims of human trafficking, as well as access to legal counsel, interpretation services, and permanent residency in Haiti if the victim so chooses; however, authorities have not used these provisions. The law also protects victims from liability for crimes committed while under the control of actual perpetrators of trafficking offenses as defined in the 2014 trafficking law, but there was no information regarding whether victims were in fact protected from such prosecutions by this law.
The government sustained efforts to prevent trafficking. The Haitian president inaugurated a 12-member inter-ministerial commission to combat trafficking in December 2015; however, the commission’s lack of a budget slowed its efforts to implement the 2015-2017 national anti-trafficking action plan. In December, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and an international organization jointly issued a report on children in domestic servitude, which found one in four children do not live with their biological parents and 207,000 children under age 15 are engaged in working more than 14 hours a week and, thus, have been significantly delayed in completing school. The report recommended the government put measures in place to prevent exploitation, including domestic servitude; protect at-risk children and victims of neglect, abuse, violence, or exploitation, including sex trafficking and forced labor; and draft and enact a child protection law. With foreign government funding, the government continued 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.
Following the Government of the Dominican Republic’s June 15, 2015 deadline for registration of migrant workers in that country, the Haitian government coordinated efforts with international organizations and NGOs to receive Haitian expellees. However, dysfunction of the Haitian civil registry system and weak consular capacity to provide identity documents leaves many Haitians at risk of remaining undocumented in the Dominican Republic and subject to deportation—recognized risk factors for vulnerability to trafficking. At the border, the government worked with NGOs to assess the needs of children crossing the border and permitted children accompanied by an adult to cross from Haiti into the Dominican Republic only after verifying that the adult had legal authority to take the child out of Haiti. Officials acknowledged traffickers were more likely to use unofficial border crossing points. The government continued a partnership with community representatives to monitor night clubs for sexual exploitation and met with officials in the geographic administrative department of Hinche to explain the anti-trafficking law and its consequences. Haiti does not have effective laws or policies to regulate foreign labor recruiters or prevent fraudulent recruiting. The 2014 anti-trafficking law includes sanctions for individuals who knowingly procure commercial sex acts from trafficking victims, but authorities did not use these provisions 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.