U.S. State Department Releases 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report
Last month, the U.S. State Department released the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report. As in previous years, the report noted serious shortcomings in the Haitian government's efforts to prevent and respond to human trafficking. There is some good news, though - in 2014 the Haitian government enacted a law to criminalize human trafficking which is a welcome and much-needed step. The country narrative for Haiti follows below.
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 consist of children in domestic servitude. In addition to experiencing forced labor, these children are vulnerable to beatings, sexual assaults, and other abuses by family members in the homes in which they are residing. Dismissed and runaway children from domestic servitude make up a significant proportion of the large population of children who end up in prostitution or are forced into begging or street crime. Children working in construction, agriculture, fisheries, and street vending are vulnerable to forced labor. Women and children living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps set up as a result of the 2010 earthquake were at an increased risk of sex trafficking and forced labor. Children in some unscrupulous private and NGO-sponsored residential care centers are at a high risk of being placed in a situation of forced labor. Haitians without documentation and those from the lowest income backgrounds, especially women and children, are particularly vulnerable. There have also been documented cases of Dominican women in forced prostitution in Haiti. Haitian children are found in prostitution, domestic servitude, and forced begging primarily in the Dominican Republic. Haitians are also exploited in forced labor primarily in the Dominican Republic, elsewhere in the Caribbean, in South America, and in the United States.
The Government of Haiti does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Haiti enacted legislation criminalizing human trafficking in 2014. Despite these efforts, the government did not demonstrate evidence of overall increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous reporting period; therefore, Haiti is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year. Haiti was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. Haiti has not convicted any perpetrators of human trafficking despite large numbers of identified victims each year. While the government had negligible capacity to provide direct or specialized services to trafficking victims, the government continued to refer victims and at-risk youth to service care centers registered with the government’s social welfare ministry (IBESR) and operated by local NGOs.
Recommendations for Haiti:
1) Enforce the new law prohibiting sex trafficking and all forms of forced labor, including domestic servitude; investigate, prosecute, convict, and sentence trafficking offenders under the new law, including persons abusing domestic servants and prostituting children under 18;
2) Enact provisions to guarantee victims are not punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking;
3) In partnership with NGOs, adopt and employ formal procedures to guide officials in proactive victim identification and referral of child and adult victims to appropriate shelters and services;
4) Work with the donor community to develop long-term, sustainable funding mechanisms for providers of services for trafficking victims; and increase funding for Haitian authorities to assist victims, especially social workers and police officers who rescue trafficking victims;
The government made no discernible progress in prosecuting trafficking offenders during the reporting period, but enacted Law No. CL/2014-0010, which criminalizes human trafficking, in 2014. This law prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties up to 15 years’ imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. As in the previous three reporting periods, the government did not report any prosecutions or convictions of any trafficking offenders
The government made some efforts to identify and assist trafficking victims during the reporting period, but these efforts were overshadowed by the continued lack of accountability for trafficking offenders. The government did not systematically track data regarding trafficking victim identification, but reported working with NGOs to reunify child domestic workers in exploitive situations with their families. Haitian authorities worked with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to facilitate the voluntary return of nine foreign adult sex trafficking victims and one child victim that Haitian police rescued with foreign law enforcement partners. During the reporting period, Haitian officials removed some children from vulnerable situations and placed them in appropriate care; however, the Haitian government did not adopt stand-alone, government-wide procedures to guide all front-line responders in the identification and referral of potential trafficking victims in Haiti. NGOs provided the majority of victim care services. Services for trafficking victims were often linked with services for other types of victims. NGOs and international partners increased coordination of such services with Haitian government institutions, improving the government’s capacity to register and respond to allegations of trafficking abuse. The government did not provide direct or specialized services to trafficking victims. The budget for IBESR was insufficient to cover the basic protection needs of children throughout Haiti, and labor and social welfare inspectors often lacked basic materials and reliable transport. Two state institutions provided care for vulnerable children who may be at risk for becoming trafficking victims, including one for street children established in November 2013. under Article 8 of the new law, the government established formal trafficking victim protection policies to encourage victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of trafficking offenders. The law provides legal protections to preclude the prosecution of trafficking victims for crimes committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking. The law provides immigration relief for foreign victims of human trafficking and thus provides legal alternatives to removal to countries in which victims would face retribution or hardship.
The government made limited efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period. The government adopted an action plan to combat trafficking in April 2014. The interministerial working group to coordinate all anti-trafficking executive branch initiatives did not report any activities during the reporting period. With support from UNICEF, IBESR launched an awareness campaign in June 2013 designed to draw attention to Haiti’s efforts to eliminate exploitative forms ofchild labor. Since 2012, the Government of Haiti, through IBESR, has managed a hotline for trafficking victims; the government reported 11 potential cases of child domestic servitude from calls to this hotline. The government also conducted a campaign to raise public awareness about child labor and child trafficking, among other child protection concerns. Through its child protection hotline, investigations of residential care centers, and other activities, IBESR closed 40 residential care centers that were operating in violation of international standards throughout 2012 and 2013. In 2013, IBESR removed 754 children from exploitative situations where they were exposed to a high risk of human trafficking. The government’s partnership with community representatives to monitor night clubs led to the successful closure of several businesses where young boys and girls had been sexually exploited.