The government maintained victim protection efforts. Authorities reported identifying 65 victims (29 of sex trafficking, eight of labor trafficking, and 28 of unspecified exploitation including pandering), compared with 95 potential victims (82 of sex trafficking and 13 of labor trafficking) in 2020, 195 potential victims in 2019, and 96 potential victims in 2018. Of the sex trafficking victims, six were women, including four Dominicans and two Colombians, 21 were girls, including 18 Dominicans and three Haitians, and two were Dominican boys. Of the labor trafficking victims, one was a Venezuelan woman, one was a U.S. citizen man, four were Dominican girls, and two were U.S. citizen boys. Of the other victims, 11 were women, 15 were men, and two were girls, all of whom were Dominican. NGOs initially identified and referred to authorities three of the child sex trafficking victims. Observers noted data collection improved somewhat during the current reporting period as the number of reported sex trafficking victims in previous reporting periods may have included individuals in commercial sex who were not victims present during raids of nightclubs. In current and previous reporting periods, statistics may not have included potential Haitian victims not screened or referred before deportation, despite the known prevalence of trafficking among Haitian migrants. The government reported it referred all 65 victims to government or government-supported NGO services and all received services, compared with 12 confirmed victims referred to care in the previous reporting period, but it did not specify which services the victims received. Observers also noted data collection improved with respect to the government’s reporting of individuals referred to care.
The government largely relied on NGOs and religious-based organizations to provide accommodations for foreign and Dominican trafficking victims in addition to psychological, reintegration, repatriation, and medical assistance and services. These organizations had limited technical skills and resources and lacked capacity to provide for the large number of victims in country. An NGO reported the National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONANI) experienced two changes in leadership during the reporting period, neither of which improved the performance of the agency, which still struggled to provide emergency care for child victims and psychotherapeutic treatment for victims. The government reported implementing health protocols for victim services in response to the pandemic. The Tourist Police identified child victims during patrols or from public calls at tourist attractions, such as parks and clandestine privately-owned hostels; other tourist areas such as beaches and spas were closed due to the pandemic. The Tourist Police provided personal protective equipment kits with gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer to child victims.
The government reported PETT’s investigations department identified victims or possible victims during operations. When carrying out an operation or investigation, the government reported using screening and referral protocols. However, government and outside observers noted authorities did not consistently or effectively implement the protocols, particularly with regard to screening detained migrants. The government reported that, when detaining or arresting individuals in commercial sex, migrants, or other at-risk groups, law enforcement, immigration, and social services personnel conducted an assessment to determine if they were trafficking victims; however, it did not identify any victims as a result of these assessment. Police may have penalized child trafficking victims, particularly those involved in robbery gangs or illicit narcotics, for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. An NGO also reported the lack of interpreters, particularly for Haitian nationals, continued to hinder victim identification efforts. With the support of an international organization and an NGO, the Directorate General of Migration, the Security Department (CSEC), and the two specialized departments of the Attorney General and the National Police signed an MOU in March 2022 to improve the airport screening process for trafficking victims. Authorities likely detained, arrested, and deported some unidentified trafficking victims, including Venezuelan migrants. The government and an international organization developed and used standard operating procedures for children recovered in international waters.
The government reported it referred all child victims to the National Directorate for Children, Adolescents, and Family to coordinate victim services. CONANI provided protection both in its shelters and in residential programs run by NGOs for as long as required. The Central Directorate of the Tourism Police arranged lodging for potential child victims in conjunction with CONANI and NGOs. The government opened a permanent shelter for trafficking victims run by the Ministry of Women in July 2021 with capacity for 24 adult victims; the government sheltered five victims there during the reporting period. The Ministry of Women reported it opened an additional 15 shelters for victims of gender-based violence including trafficking victims during the reporting period. The trafficking shelter reportedly provided psychological and legal assistance, immigration support, comprehensive health care, food, education, and job training. An NGO reported the government continued to offer victims services on a temporary basis and government funding and service quality was inadequate. RELEVIC could also provide public lawyers to represent victims. The government reported it also provided legal assistance for victims who wished to file civil suits for compensation against the traffickers; NGOs reported prosecutors did not always pursue restitution for victims and without public legal assistance victims were often unable to afford to pursue the case. The government reported the Department of Mental Health provided psychological assistance to victims. The National Health Service could conduct medical evaluations of trafficking victims at hospitals in Santo Domingo. The government reported it worked with the embassies and consulates of the country of origin of foreign victims to provide consular and repatriation services and represent their interests as necessary. The government reported it tailored services according to the victims’ needs. An international organization reported the government did not refer or provided delayed or insufficient services for female Haitian trafficking victims.
An international organization reported finalizing a joint project with the judiciary to develop an interview protocol for child victims and witnesses of crimes of sexual violence that established guidelines for abiding by applicable human rights concerns and intended to avoid re-traumatizing the victims and witnesses; the government did not report implementing the protocol by the end of the reporting period. The government reported providing support to 56 victims in the investigation or prosecution of their alleged traffickers and conducting interviews of victim-witnesses in a Gesell Chamber to avoid re-victimization of survivors. The trafficking law did not provide immigration protections for trafficking victims whether or not they assisted with court cases. However, the government reported it did not detain or deport trafficking victims and that if victims wished to return to their country of origin, the government would forgive the overstay fee they may have incurred. Local NGOs stated that although the government did not deport foreign trafficking victims, it also did not offer temporary residence or work permits or take constructive steps to regularize a victim’s immigration status after a short period of time. As a result, foreign victims may have found themselves without legal status, which increased their vulnerability to trafficking. The government permitted victims to work. An NGO reported judges could limit victims’ movement, disincentivizing their participation in judicial actions. The government reported training officials on legal support and protection systems and assistance for victims and the identification and protection of child victims. The government reported no Dominican trafficking victims were identified abroad.