HAITI: Tier 2 Watch List

The Government of Haiti does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated significant efforts during the reporting period by closing several abusive orphanages and reconstituting its foster care system to support child trafficking victims and reduce vulnerability to abuse. The government also took action against some complicit officials; mandated victim restitution for a trafficking conviction; increased the number of trained police; deployed its first class of border police trained to detect and combat trafficking; and increased coordination and oversight of its anti-trafficking efforts. However, the government did not demonstrate increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period. The government did not criminally prosecute complicit officials and did not investigate many accusations of official complicity, including of the chief prosecutor. The government did not allocate funding for its anti-trafficking efforts or victim services and did not approve or implement its national action plan or its standard operating procedures for victim identification. The government’s weak judicial system and lack of awareness about trafficking among police, prosecutors, and judges hindered prosecution and conviction of traffickers. The government did little to combat child domestic servitude (restavek). Therefore Haiti remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.

Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including complicit officials and those responsible for domestic servitude and child sex trafficking; prioritize the implementation of a national anti-trafficking action plan with allocated resources, and increase long-term funding for trafficking victim assistance; continue to develop and build Haiti’s nascent foster care system and other residential care services for children; train police, prosecutors, judges, and victim service providers in all areas of Haiti on trafficking; approve and implement formal procedures to guide officials in proactive victim identification and referral to appropriate shelters and services; develop the resources and capacity to inspect worksites for indicators of forced labor; develop laws or policies to regulate foreign labor recruiters; implement measures to address the vulnerabilities leading to restavek, including protecting child victims of neglect, abuse, and violence; draft and enact a child protection law with specific protections for child trafficking victims; develop a method to systematically track trafficking data and the government’s anti-trafficking efforts; develop efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex or forced labor; and educate the Haitian public about children’s rights to education and freedom from slavery to counteract tolerance of restavek.

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The 2014 anti-trafficking law (No. CL/20140010) criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of seven to 15 years imprisonment and a fine ranging from 200,000 to 1.5 million gourdes ($3,180 to $23,830), which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law provided for increased penalties of up to life imprisonment when the victim was a child. During the reporting period, the government investigated two potential trafficking cases involving six individuals (six cases in 2016), including one national police officer; initiated two new prosecutions (three in 2016) involving two defendants; and obtained one trafficking conviction (three in 2016). Sentencing involved seven years imprisonment and a fine of 200,000 gourdes ($3,180); the trafficker was also ordered to pay 100,000 gourdes ($1,590) to the victim. The government cooperated with U.S. law enforcement on an investigation that led to the 2018 conviction of a U.S. citizen for child sex tourism. Observers noted traffickers largely operated with impunity. In November 2017, the minister of justice fired five assistant prosecutors for their role in releasing nine individuals arrested on suspicion of trafficking during a sting operation in February 2017; however, the fired prosecutors were not charged with a crime and the chief prosecutor, who some officials and observers said was behind the release due to bribery, was not investigated.

Haiti’s weak judicial system and lack of awareness about trafficking among police, prosecutors, and judges hindered prosecution and conviction of traffickers. Civil society and authorities remained concerned that some government officials in remote areas lacked training on the 2014 anti-trafficking law and its implementation, leading to lesser charges and informal arrangements to resolve cases. The government provided 1,022 members of the Haitian national police with three hours of human trafficking and smuggling training. The government continued to work with an NGO on a foreign-funded project to train legal actors throughout Haiti on the 2014 anti-trafficking law and its proper implementation. In January 2018, the national police deployed PoliFront, their first class of 100 border police officers, to Ouanaminthe, Haiti’s busiest border crossing, with a mandate to fight various forms of transnational crime including trafficking. Before deployment, PoliFront received six weeks of training, which included a session on human trafficking.

The government increased protection efforts. The government did not systematically track data regarding victim identification; however, reported cases suggest the government identified at least 31 potential trafficking victims, compared with 43 victims in 2016. In 2017, government officials closed four abusive orphanages that housed 116 children and potentially involved trafficking and placed 51 children from those orphanages into foster care; the remainder were returned to their families. The government accredited 76 families for its newly developed foster care program to make children less vulnerable to trafficking or being re-victimized. The government made no discernable effort to address restavek despite it being a widespread issue across the country.

The 2014 anti-trafficking law tasked the trafficking commission to develop standard operating procedures to guide officials in the identification and rehabilitation of trafficking victims; the government did not approve a 2016 draft of these procedures. The law required the government to provide protection, medical, and psycho-social services to victims, and to create a government-regulated fund to assist victims. However, as in 2016, the government did not dedicate funding for victim assistance and relied on international organizations and NGOs to provide care. Haiti’s 2014 anti-trafficking law stipulated that money and other assets seized during trafficking investigations should be used to fund services for trafficking victims and the functioning of the trafficking in persons commission; however, there was no evidence this occurred. Government officials referred child trafficking victims to its social welfare agency, which did not have adequate funding for their care. The agency then referred child victims to government-registered residential care centers that, due to a lack of resources, could provide only short-term medical and counseling services, family tracing, pre-return assessments, and limited support for the families receiving these victims. The government did not have a formal program to assist victims who returned to Haiti, but did refer victims to international and non-governmental organizations.

Authorities worked closely with the U.S. Coast Guard to receive Haitian migrants who attempted to reach The Bahamas or the United States; Haitian authorities screened unaccompanied children for trafficking indicators and facilitated their re-integration with family members. The government, in partnership with a foreign government and an international organization, opened border resource centers (CRFs) at each of the four major border crossings, which housed representatives from the social welfare agency, child protective services, and NGOs. These centers identified and provided services to trafficking victims at the border regions.

The anti-trafficking law included provisions for temporary residency during legal proceedings for foreign victims of trafficking, as well as access to legal counsel, interpretation services, and permanent residency; however, the government did not provide these services and would be unlikely to have the financial resources to implement them. To assist in a prosecution, victims must testify against their accuser in the presence of their accuser; there were no facilities for video deposition or child-friendly facilities during legal proceedings. The law protected victims from liability for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to human trafficking. There was no legal provision for civil restitution for trafficking victims, but a judge could mandate civil restitution for related crimes under Haiti’s civil code.

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The government did not commit resources for its trafficking commission, compared with 10 million gourdes ($158,860) in 2017. A lack of resources continued to hamper efforts to fight trafficking, but government coordination among donors and among ministries improved during the reporting period. In June 2017, the trafficking commission, with funding from an external donor, held a public conference with relevant government agencies and NGOs to highlight the problem of trafficking in the country and completed its draft 2017-2022 national action plan. A final draft was presented to the Minister of Social Affairs and Labor but was not approved before the end of the reporting period. There had been no resources allocated to implement this plan. The government improved oversight and coordination between the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor and the trafficking commission; however, frequent changes in ministry leadership led to continued bureaucratic challenges in combating trafficking. The appointment of a new minister of social affairs in September 2017, however, led to better institutionalization and meeting structure of the trafficking committee within the ministry, which replaced inactive members. The government did not systematically monitor its anti-trafficking efforts. The commission, however, worked with EU technical experts to develop a draft report that described trafficking issues in Haiti; the report awaited approval from the minister before being released.

There were no government efforts to educate the public about children’s rights to education and freedom from slavery to counteract tolerance of restavek. The CRFs had educational posters and brochures about trafficking at key border control points; however, the lack of controls at the 96 unofficial border crossing points further enabled trafficking. Authorities stated they did not have the human capacity to control illegal crossings in these areas. The government managed a 24-hour national anti-trafficking hotline, capable of receiving calls in French and Haitian Creole; there was no data available on its effectiveness.

Since the Government of the Dominican Republic’s June 2015 deadline for registration of migrant workers in that country, the Haitian government coordinated efforts with international organizations and NGOs to receive Haitian expellees and provide documentation for Haitian citizens. However, the continued dysfunction of the Haitian civil registry system and weak consular capacity to provide identification documentation left many Haitians at risk of remaining undocumented in the Dominican Republic and subject to deportation—recognized risk factors for vulnerability to trafficking. First Lady Martine Moise led a public marketing campaign to provide infants born in Haiti with birth certificates. The social welfare agency instituted more stringent requirements for parents seeking authorization for unaccompanied travel by children to South American countries. Haiti did not have effective laws or policies to regulate foreign labor recruiters or prevent fraudulent recruiting. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor lacked staff and resources to inspect worksites for indicators of forced labor. The government did not provide anti-trafficking training for its diplomatic personnel. The government did not make efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex or forced labor.

As reported over the past five years, 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 (restavek) who often are physically abused, receive no payment for services rendered, and have significantly lower school enrollment rates. A December 2015 joint government and international organization report on restavek found one in four children do not live with their biological parents and estimated 286,000 children under age 15 work in domestic servitude. 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. 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. A significant number of children flee employers’ homes or abusive families and become street children. Female foreign nationals, particularly citizens of the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor in Haiti. Other vulnerable populations include children in private and NGO-sponsored residential care centers; Haitian children working in construction, agriculture, fisheries, domestic work, and street vending in Haiti and the Dominican Republic; internally displaced persons including those displaced by Hurricane Matthew and the 2010 earthquake; members of female-headed, single-parent families, and families with many children; Haitians living near the border with the Dominican Republic; Haitian migrants, including those returning from the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Mexico, the United States, or The Bahamas; and LGBTI youth often left homeless and stigmatized by their families and society. 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.

U.S. Department of State

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