HAITI: Tier 2

The Government of Haiti does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Haiti was upgraded to Tier 2. These efforts included investigating, prosecuting, and convicting more traffickers, passing a national action plan, closing several abusive orphanages, and increasing law enforcement training. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not criminally prosecute recent cases of alleged official complicity. The government did not allocate sufficient funding for its anti-trafficking efforts or victim services and did not implement 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).

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. • 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. • Continue to develop Haiti’s nascent foster care system and other residential care services for children. • Train more labor inspectors, inspect worksites for indicators of forced labor, and investigate forced labor cases. • Develop laws or policies to regulate foreign labor recruiters and raise awareness among potential migrant laborers. • Implement measures to address the vulnerabilities leading to restavek, including protecting child victims of neglect, abuse, and violence. • Educate the Haitian public about children’s rights to education and freedom from slavery to counteract tolerance of restavek. • Develop a method to systematically track trafficking data and the government’s anti-trafficking efforts.

The government increased law enforcement efforts. The 2014 anti-trafficking law (No.CL/20140010) criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties of seven to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine ranging from 200,000 to 1.5 million gourdes ($2,590 to $19,450), 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 nine potential trafficking cases involving 17 suspects, compared to two potential cases involving six suspects in 2017. The government dropped the 2017 trafficking case against a national police officer. The Haitian border police (POLIFRONT) arrested 55 suspected traffickers and used a screening protocol co-developed with an international agency to refer 173 unaccompanied minors to the government social welfare agency (IBESR). The Ministry of Justice did not charge the 55 suspects with trafficking after reviewing the cases. The government initiated seven prosecutions, compared with two new prosecutions in 2017. The government convicted six traffickers in two separate cases, compared to one trafficker convicted in 2017. Five traffickers were sentenced to 15 years in prison and one individual was sentenced to one year in prison for child abuse. 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 abuse.

Haiti’s weak judicial system and lack of awareness about trafficking among police, prosecutors, and judges hindered prosecution and conviction of traffickers. The government did not initiate a criminal investigation into the five prosecutors fired in the previous reporting period for their role in releasing nine individuals arrested on suspicion of trafficking. Despite an investigative judge’s recommendation for two individuals charged in 2017 with trafficking 25 children to stand trial, authorities released both after appeal. Observers noted traffickers largely operated with impunity. Civil society and authorities remained concerned that some government officials in remote areas lacked training on the anti-trafficking law, leading to lesser charges or release. The magistrates school, together with the assistance of another government, organized five training events on trafficking involving a total of 81 judges, 30 prosecutors, and 30 civil society actors. The government, together with an NGO on a foreign-funded project, trained 500 judicial, law enforcement, and social work officials throughout Haiti on the anti-trafficking law and its proper implementation over a three-year period.

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.

The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The government requested 41 million gourdes ($531,650) in 2018 for funding the CNLTP, but parliament did not pass the budget, compared with no funds committed in 2017 and 10 million gourdes ($129,670) in 2016. The government approved a 2017-2022 national action plan. A lack of resources continued to hamper efforts to fight trafficking, but government coordination among donors and among ministries continued to improve during the reporting period. The appointment of a new minister of social affairs in September 2018 and the approval of new CNLTP leadership led to better institutionalization and visibility of CNLTP within the ministry. The government did not systematically monitor its anti-trafficking efforts, although the CNLTP worked with outside experts to develop a study on trafficking issues, which was adopted by the government in August. IBESR closed eight orphanages found not in compliance during the reporting period. The government accredited 45 more foster families for a total of 121 families, as part of its expanded foster care program to make children less vulnerable to trafficking or being re-victimized.

During the reporting period, the office of the human rights ombudsman organized an awareness promotion event on prolonged pre-trial detention and human trafficking for four police officers and six judicial officials, and the Ministry of Justice organized a trafficking workshop for 56 participants, including representatives from the Ministry of Justice, the national police, and other government ministries. The government participated in an event with another government to mark the UN World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, involving 47 police, judicial officials, prosecutors, civil society members, and the media, and screened an anti-trafficking film, held a panel discussion on trafficking in Haiti, and promoted the new national action plan, garnering widespread press coverage. An NGO co-organized with the government a trafficking awareness activity for more than 80 law students. The national police’s child protection bureau (CPB) developed and distributed 500 Creole-language trafficking awareness brochures to schools, churches, border offices, and other organizations. The government’s 24-hour national anti-trafficking hotline received 50 calls per week and the CPB followed up on several cases per week. The BRCs had educational posters and brochures about trafficking at key border control points; however, the lack of controls at 96 unofficial points further enabled trafficking. Authorities stated they did not have the human capacity to control illegal crossings in these areas; an international agency discontinued its funding to IBESR in March 2019, which was likely to further reduce human capacity at its border and provincial offices.

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. IBESR instituted more stringent requirements for parents seeking authorization for unaccompanied travel by children to South American countries. Although a law to streamline identity documentation by combining the civil registry with the national identification office was not reintroduced in the current legislative session, the government signed a $27 million contract with a biometric identification company and acquired equipment to replace millions of expired identity cards by October 2019. Although the labor code required recruiters and businesses to obtain a license, Haiti did not have effective laws or policies to regulate foreign labor recruiters, prevent fraudulent recruiting, or raise awareness of the risks for potential migrant laborers. The government 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, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Haiti, and traffickers exploit victims from Haiti abroad. Most of Haiti’s trafficking cases involve children in 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 found one in four Haitian children do not live with their biological parents and an estimated 286,000 children younger than age 15 are in domestic servitude. A significant number of children flee situations of domestic servitude and become homeless. Female foreign nationals, particularly citizens of the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor in Haiti. A study released in 2018 found significant numbers of children in orphanages are likely victims of trafficking. Other vulnerable populations include: children in similar 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; Haitians living near the border with the Dominican Republic; Haitian migrants, including those traveling to or 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 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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