The government increased its efforts to identify and protect child victims; however, authorities remained largely dependent on NGOs to fund and provide services. Although the government did not systematically track victim identification data, the justice ministry reported identifying 22 potential trafficking victims, compared with 31 in 2017. In addition, an international NGO identified another 71 potential victims and IBESR, after completing an assessment of more than 750 orphanages with another government and international NGOs, identified 3,019 potential victims of trafficking in those institutions. Government officials referred child trafficking victims to IBESR, which did not have adequate funding for their care. The agency then referred child victims to government-registered residential care centers for services, which varied from short-term medical and counseling services, family tracing, pre-return assessments, and limited support before returning children to the families. Experts noted the lack of government-run shelter facilities impeded prosecution because the government’s policy of returning child victims to their families made it difficult to locate witnesses to testify against the accused. The government worked with bilateral and international partners to set up a network of 35 child protection units and provide reintegration services to 1,700 children in restavek. While IBESR instituted a policy that restricted unaccompanied minors from leaving the country without written parental authorization, officials indicated traffickers easily moved children across the porous border to the Dominican Republic for sex trafficking and domestic servitude.
The 2014 anti-trafficking law tasked the national committee for the fight against human trafficking (CNLTP) to develop standard operating procedures to guide officials in the identification and rehabilitation of trafficking victims; the newly installed staff of CNLTP started work on updating the 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 the past two years, the government did not approve a dedicated budget for victim assistance and other anti-trafficking activities, and it continued to rely on international organizations and NGOs to provide care. The anti-trafficking law also stipulated money and other assets seized during trafficking investigations should fund services for trafficking victims and the CNLTP; however, there was no evidence this occurred. The government did not have a formal program to assist victims who returned to Haiti, but authorities did refer victims to international and non-governmental organizations. Authorities worked with the U.S. Coast Guard to receive migrants; Haitian authorities screened unaccompanied children for trafficking indicators and facilitated their reintegration with family members. CNLTP reported working with The Bahamas to repatriate a Haitian national who was allegedly a victim of forced labor, in addition to coordinating with the national police and the Dominican Republic on the investigation of a potential Dominican victim, establishing patterns of collaboration between countries.
Border resource centers (BRCs) at each of the four major border crossings screened 858 vulnerable migrants for trafficking with a protocol developed with an international organization. The BRCs housed representatives from the social welfare agency, child protective services, and NGOs who assisted irregular migrants. The anti-trafficking law included provisions for temporary residency during legal proceedings for foreign victims, 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. There were no facilities for video deposition or child-friendly facilities during legal proceedings. The government passed a legal assistance law to provide free legal assistance to all Haitians, including trafficking victims. The anti-trafficking law protected victims from liability for unlawful acts their traffickers compelled them to commit; IBESR intervened on behalf of a minor who had been in custody on suspicion of recruitment of other minors for a trafficking gang. Judges could mandate civil restitution for related crimes under Haiti’s civil code, but there were no awards for restitution made during the reporting period.