State Department Releases 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report

  • Posted on: 29 June 2011
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
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Earlier this week, the U.S. State Department released its 2011 annual report on human trafficking.  While Haiti does have institutions devoted to protecting children, such as the Haiti National Police Brigade for the Protection of Minors (BPM), they lack resources and capacity.  For the immediate future, trafficking prevention and response will remain driven by non governmental and international organizations.  However, the Haitian government can make a major contribution by passing legislation that criminalizes sex trafficking and forced labor.  The portion of the report devoted to Haiti follows below.

 

Background: The massive physical destruction in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, including the destruction of governmental buildings, equipment, and loss of personnel, and the continued lack of fundamental infrastructure throughout the government, severely limited the government’s ability to function in many areas, including in areas of law enforcement, social services and border control. This had a similarly limiting effect upon the government’s ability to address trafficking in persons. For these reasons, Haiti remains a Special Case for the sixth consecutive year. The extreme impact of the earthquake on the operational capacity of the Haitian government persisted throughout 2010 and into 2011. Twelve out of the 13 ministries collapsed in the earthquake, none of which have been rebuilt. Hundreds of civil servants and technocrats were killed, taking with them institutional knowledge and experience, and files were lost or destroyed. The Haitian government’s ministries operated out of tents and in overcrowded makeshift buildings. Although Haiti has a significant child trafficking problem, the Haitian National Police Brigade for Protection of Minors (BPM), responsible for investigating crimes against children has a minimal staff of 35 for the entire country, and lacks vehicles or investigational materials to inspect childcare facilities around the country. Border patrol lacks capacity to monitor the four official border crossings effectively, let alone the entire territorial border. Finally, the justice system is largely non-functional, as detention backlogs go back years, and few cases advance without some form of bribes or political pressure. The slow pace of reconstruction after the earthquake and the lack of government infrastructure obstructed basic government efforts to address trafficking in the country. The following background and recommendations are provided to guide government officials and organizations working on anti-trafficking initiatives in Haiti.

 

Scope and Magnitude: Haiti is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The Haitian National Police and local NGOs reported an increase in alleged cases of forced labor and sex trafficking of children and adults since the earthquake. Young children without family support or secure housing appear to be increasingly at risk. The majority of trafficking cases are found among the estimated 173,000 to 225,000 restaveks —the term for the practice of child domestic servitude—in Haiti. The majority of children become restaveks when recruiters arrange for them to live with families in other cities and towns in the hope of going to school. Restaveks are treated differently from other non-biological children living in households; in addition to involuntary servitude, restaveks are particularly vulnerable to beatings, sexual assaults, and other abuses by family members in the homes in which they are residing. Restaveks are often dismissed when they become teenagers or difficult to control. Dismissed and runaway restaveks make up a significant proportion of the large population of street children, who frequently are subjected to sex trafficking or street crime by violent criminal gangs. Since the earthquake, local shelters have received a record number of restaveks. Many are also living in internally displaced persons camps. Representatives from NGOs monitoring the Haitian-Dominican border reported that children frequently cross the border illegally, often in the company of an adult who is not the child’s parent or guardian. This adult is generally paid approximately three dollars to pretend to be the child’s parent until they get to the other side of the border. Some of these children are taken to be reunited with parents working in the Dominican Republic, but others are believed to be going to work in organized begging rings or in domestic servitude. Haitian men, women, and children also are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking in the Dominican Republic, other Caribbean countries, the United States, and South America.

 

Government Efforts: In a positive step, Haitian officials recognized that human trafficking, including the exploitation of restavek children, is a serious problem in the country; however, the lack of legislation prohibiting all forms of trafficking was a major obstacle to progress. The absence of legislation also contributed to confusion among elements of the Haitian government and some of its international donors among the crimes of human smuggling, human trafficking, and illegal adoption. Legislation criminalizing all forms of human trafficking has been pending in Parliament for several years. A draft bill on trafficking has been presented to Parliament for consideration in the next session, which is expected to occur near the end of the reporting period. The Haitian justice system did not make advances in prosecuting traffickers during the reporting period. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions or convictions of trafficking offenders in Haiti. The BPM was severely understaffed and lacking in resources such as vehicles and computers, like many Haitian National Police units. The BPM, however, did refer cases, including cases of child domestic servitude, to the prosecutor’s office, where they often languished as part of Haiti’s large case backlog. The Haitian National Police provided a handbook for police cadets, written in collaboration with Interpol, on sex trafficking. The government lacked formal victim identification and assistance policies and resources. Shelter services for adult trafficking victims did not exist. The government’s social welfare agency worked well with NGOs to identify and refer some child victims to donor-funded NGOs who provided shelter, food, medical, and psychosocial support. One NGO, with international donor support, screened approximately 14,000 children during the reporting period and registered 200 of them as potential victims of child trafficking. The children were transferred into the social welfare agency’s custody, and over 100 of them were reunited with their families. Haiti’s border with the Dominican Republic was not well-monitored, but at the four designated border crossings, Haitian officers worked with NGO child protection officers (who have been seconded to the police) to screen children passing through the border for possible trafficking. In December 2010, police stopped a truck with four men and seven children in a suspected trafficking situation and worked with the NGO to reunite the children with their families. Prevention efforts have been largely NGO-driven. The government did not register all births immediately and did not keep statistics concerning the number of births unregistered each year, increasing children’s vulnerability to human trafficking. Haiti is not a popular destination for international child sex tourism; however, there were many foreign nationals in the country for non-tourist purposes, and there were some incidents of foreigners procuring child commercial sex acts. The government of Haiti worked with the Canadian government to deport a child rapist to Canada for prosecution. A divergent definition of trafficking in persons within the NGO community further hindered coordinated anti-trafficking strategies. There have been reports of duplication of anti-trafficking efforts by international organizations unaware of local mechanisms already in place.

 

Recommendations for Haiti: Enact legislation criminalizing sex trafficking and all forms of forced labor, including domestic servitude, with penalties that are proportionate to the seriousness of the crime committed; in partnership with NGOs, adopt and employ formal procedures to guide officials in proactive victim identification and referral of victims to available services; provide in-kind support for victim services; consider partnerships with NGOs to establish and support community based social workers as protection and prevention measures; and improve access to quality education for all children.

Comments

By Dallas Duncan
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The Haitian government shut down an orphanage last week in light of abuse findings by several U.S. charitable organizations, including Gainesville-based Adventures in Missions. Operators of the Son of God Orphanage in Carrefour, Haiti, are alleged to have abused the children at the orphanage. Instead of using the medicine, clothes and other donations to care for the children, Maccene Hyppolite, his wife Marie and their children are accused of selling the goods for profit and selling the orphans as well. Rania Batrice, executive director of the Dallas, Texas-based Freedom Project, said she was unsure of the total worth of the goods sold, but said it was "pretty substantial." "We started to notice the children we were trying to help ... their condition seemed to get worse. We started to get suspicious about 15 months ago," said Jeff Goins, director of communications for Adventures in Missions. Goins said the organizations did not want to jump to any conclusions. The teams on the ground in Haiti kept an eye on how things were going. Eventually, Goins said, the organizations realized that not only were the Hyppolites misappropriating funds, they were abusing children. Children were also disappearing from the orphanage. Maccene Hyppolite is now in jail in Port au Prince on these charges, according to a news release. He was arrested in July "while attempting to sell one of the orphans" during a police sting operation, but his wife and children continued to run the orphanage. Accounts from those still in Haiti demonstrated the situation continued to worsen. Members of the organizations met last week with senior level officials to Haitian President Michel Martelly to make them aware of the situation at Son of God Orphanage, the news release said. "They were shown photographs and a first-hand account of the people who've been on the ground for the last 15 months," Batrice said. "(The orphans) were still starving to death and still many were naked. The evidence is so damning you can't look over it." Goins said though the groups were advocating for the orphanage to be closed, they did not expect the government to do so on such a fast timetable. Even after the orphanage was shut down, Marie Hyppolite and her children were not arrested, Batrice said.
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The orphans were relocated to other orphanages in Haiti. "Efforts continue ... to locate the missing children, ensure the safety of the relocated children and push for a full and thorough investigation of anyone involved in the situation," the news release said. Batrice said there were about 85 children in the orphanage. "There are 46 of these kids who are missing. That's on top of the 53 kids who were already missing," she said. Batrice said part of the speculation about the orphanage is that Maccene Hyppolite trafficked at least some of these missing children. She said when some of the aid workers wanted to take their sponsored children to the doctor, he told them no but said he would sell them to the workers for $2,000. The groups, Adventures in Missions, along with Bridgeway Church, Timberline Church, Children's Hope Chest, Journey Community Church and Respire Haiti, began working with Son of God Orphanage shortly after the country was devastated by the earthquake in 2010. "We discovered this orphanage that was in great need after the earthquake hit Haiti," Goins said. "We sent a team down immediately." Barnes said when he saw the orphanage, it was "horrible." "The earthquake had damaged the building. The kids were sleeping on the floor. They were doing school under a tree," said Seth Barnes, executive director of Adventures in Missions. Batrice said there are still teams in Haiti, and some who were in the states returned when they realized the severity of the children's condition. They are checking on the relocated orphans and still pursuing those who are missing. Barnes said the groups hope to find the kids who are still unaccounted for and help them find a safe home. "They're just really trying to push the issue," Batrice said. "All of this is speculation, but they think there's about 20 other orphanages trying to do the same thing."

6/13/2012
International Organization for Migration
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Dominican Republic - IOM has welcomed this week’s first ever conviction in the Dominican Republic of two child traffickers who received 15-year prison sentences for the smuggling, trafficking and labour exploitation of Haitian children in Santo Domingo. "IOM is pleased to see justice served on these traffickers. We also recognize the good Samaritan act of a Dominican woman who, seeing the same three children begging on a street corner day after day, decided to intervene on their behalf and take them to a government-run shelter,” said IOM Santo Domingo Chief of Mission Cy Winter. The traffickers were arrested in a raid by the Dominican authorities in the Los Alcarrizos neighbourhood of Santo Domingo in February 2011, during which 44 children were discovered and rescued. Twenty-two of the children were identified as victims of human trafficking and taken into Dominican custody. They had been trafficked to the Dominican Republic to beg on the streets of Santo Domingo or to carry out menial labour. All money they earned had been taken by their traffickers.
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IOM supported the Dominican authorities by providing food, clothing, medical and psycho-social care, recreational activities and transportation for all the rescued children. It also provided technical and operational assistance. IOM Haiti then undertook family tracing to identify their biological families or legal guardians. The families were evaluated by IOM social workers to assess their needs and their ability and willingness to receive their children. Subsequently, a pre-return risk assessment was compiled for each child and reviewed in cooperation with the Haitian Child Protection Authorities (IBESR). Following successful pre-return risk assessments, the children were subsequently moved by IOM from the Dominican Republic to Haiti, in cooperation with the Haitian Embassy in Santo Domingo and the Dominican and Haitian Migration and Child Protection Authorities.
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The 22 returned children and their families received reintegration support, including education and income generation assistance, as well as monitoring to ensure the sustainability of the returns. Over the past two years IOM Santo Domingo’s counter-trafficking work with Haitian children and adolescent victims of forced and exploitative labour and sexual exploitation has increased dramatically. It has assisted over 60 male and female Haitian minors trafficked to the Dominican Republic. During the same period IOM has also helped nearly 100 Dominican victims of trafficking to return home from countries including Trinidad and Tobago, St. Martin, Haiti, Argentina, Morocco, Lebanon and Switzerland.
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IOM Santo Domingo’s counter trafficking projects are supported by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) and the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP).
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For more information, please contact
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Zoë Stopak-Behr IOM Santo Domingo Tel: 809 688 8174 Email: zstopak-behr@iom.int

5/21/2013
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IOM is currently assisting the authorities in the Dominican Republic with identifying and assessing a group of 54 unaccompanied Haitian minors who are victims of trafficking. IOM is also providing food, clothing, and non-food items and will carry out family tracing and family reunification if necessary. The group was rescued by the Dominican authorities on 16th of May, when the police broke up a human trafficking ring which was exploiting the children by forcing them to beg on street corners in the capital, Santo Domingo. Under the coordination of the Dominican Attorney General's Office, a National Police (NP) and General Directorate of Migration (DGM) team raided over twenty houses in Los Alcarrizos, a neighbourhood outside Santo Domingo, after an exhaustive eight month investigation.
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The raids identified 109 irregular migrants, of whom 54 were children, including 16 aged 3 or younger. The whole group were taken into temporary custody while investigators conduct initial interviews and the authorities find appropriate shelters for the unaccompanied minors. "This is the most significant large-scale coordinated effort to rescue child victims of trafficking in the Dominican Republic to date. It involved a multi-agency investigation over many months and a joint response in support of the victims," said IOM Chief of Mission Cy Winter. IOM in the Dominican Republic is part of an inter-agency response team to combat trafficking. It provides support to CONANI, the country's lead agency for child affairs, with interpretation, logistics and psycho-social support. IOM counter trafficking staff delivered a series of training workshops to key Dominican officials involved in the shelter and referral process before the raids. It has now assigned Creole-speaking community liaison officers to assess the children and provide psycho-social support. IOM's assistance to victims of trafficking in the Dominican Republic is funded by the US State Department's Office to Combat and Monitor Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP) and Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM.)
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The US funding has allowed IOM to establish referral processes and enables it to provide direct assistance to victims that cannot be covered by DR authorities. It also enables IOM to provide reintegration support after best interest determination and family tracing procedures. In the past three years IOM offices in Haiti and the Dominican Republic have traced families and helped over 20 Haitian children to return to their country. Some have returned to their parents - others are in a shelter in the city of Cap Haitien, still waiting to be reunited with their families. A recent survey by the Dominican National Office of Statistics indicates there are some 458,000 Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic. For more information, please contact Alicia Sangro at IOM Dominican Republic, Tel: +809.688.8174, Email: asangro@iom.int

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