The government maintained victim protection efforts. Authorities identified 102 sex trafficking victims—89 female and 13 male; 57 children and 45 adults—compared with 157 victims in 2016 and 101 in 2015. Seventy-five of the victims were Dominican and 27 were Venezuelan. All of the Dominican victims were given food, medical and psychological services, legal assistance, and shelter. The government said 20 of the 27 Venezuelan victims were provided food, medical, psychological, immigration, and legal assistance and shelter; seven of the victims voluntarily returned to Venezuela with assistance provided by an international organization. The government said 86 of the 102 trafficking victims cooperated with law enforcement. The government provided assistance through its consular and diplomatic missions to four Dominican women exploited abroad, three in Trinidad and Tobago and one in Liberia; upon return to the Dominican Republic, the government provided these victims with additional services.
In collaboration with other government agencies, international organizations, and NGOs, the ATU was structured to provide foreign and domestic trafficking victims accommodation in shelters, psychological, and legal assistance, reintegration and repatriation assistance, medical services, and support for higher education. However, NGOs reported these services were ad hoc and not well coordinated or specialized, and the government often returned child victims to their families without follow-up care or education about the risks of re-trafficking. The government established a fund of 125,000 Dominican pesos ($2,600) for a shelter in Cotui and 120,000 Dominican pesos ($2,490) for a shelter in Nizao. The special prosecutor’s office had a special fund of 50,000 Dominican pesos ($1,040) and an investigations fund of 70,000 Dominican pesos ($1,450) that were also used for victim-related expenses such as transportation, food, shelter expenses, and medications; both of these funds were periodically replenished. Authorities and observers noted the government lacked adequate funding, strong institutional leadership, trained personnel, and equipment to provide adequate victim protection. Experts, however, noted some improved care to teenage victims at a shelter in Jarabacoa.
Government officials reported having protocols to identify and assist adult and child trafficking victims; however, authorities did not fully implement the protocols across all levels of government nationwide. The government previously worked with an NGO to provide training to build capacity to apply the protocols but no longer does so. The government acknowledged the protocols, which were developed in 2015, have not been fully implemented across the government but said that will be included in its national plan. The government said the lack of full implementation has not hindered its work with victim assistance and protection. The government worked with NGOs to screen for potential victims. The government did not fund a shelter to remain open full-time for adult female victims of trafficking. Some observers noted one shelter might not be sufficient to care for victims across the entire country, and placing trafficking victims in the same shelter as domestic violence victims was problematic because they had different problems and needs; others pointed out the need for more transitional housing for victims.
The government reported victims sued their traffickers in 2017, using free legal services provided by the ATU. Five new civil actions against traffickers were filed, while three of the five filed in 2016 were concluded. In two of those three cases, traffickers were required to compensate victims; one received 100,000 Dominican pesos ($2,080) and the other received 150,000 Dominican pesos ($3,120). The anti-trafficking law contained victim protection provisions, including restitution; however, no victims obtained restitution in 2016 or 2017, compared to at least one victim in 2015. The government provided compensation to victims of trafficking, including 100,000 Dominican pesos ($2,080) per person granted to victims of a case in Montecristi. The government provided a residence visa to a Chinese national who was identified as a trafficking victim in 2013. Undocumented Haitian victims faced deportation and other penalties resulting from their irregular immigration status, increasing vulnerability to trafficking. The government signed an agreement between its foreign ministry, Attorney General’s Office, and the National Institute of Migration to create a pilot program for the protection and resettlement of Dominicans who were victims of trafficking abroad.