2023 Trafficking in Persons Report for Haiti

  • Posted on: 18 June 2023
  • By: Bryan Schaaf

2023 Trafficking in Persons Report: Haiti

U.S State Department

The Government of Haiti does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. These efforts included initiating two prosecutions under the anti-trafficking law, along with assigning investigative judges in one high-profile case against one defendant under the anti-trafficking law and another high-profile case with strong trafficking indicators under other laws. The government also identified 11 adult trafficking victims and provided them with support services; it also provided support to an unknown number of child victims and conducted an audit of judicial and child protection cases. However, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, even considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity. Impunity and complicity, particularly in high-profile cases, remained serious problems. The government lacked sustained law enforcement efforts and did not consistently pursue investigations following victim identification. The government did not disaggregate anti-trafficking law enforcement or victim protection efforts for the reporting period, making improvements from prior year efforts unclear, and government anti-trafficking agencies did not all cooperate effectively. The government did not make sufficient efforts to combat situations of child domestic servitude (restavek). Because the government has devoted sufficient resources to a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute significant efforts to meet the minimum standards, Haiti was granted a waiver per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3. Therefore Haiti remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year.

1) Vigorously investigate and prosecute trafficking crimes and convict traffickers, including complicit officials, gang members, and those responsible for domestic servitude – including situations involving children – and child sex trafficking.
2) Improve the quality of services for adults.
3) Educate the public with both traditional and social media about children’s rights to freedom and education and implement measures to address the vulnerabilities leading to domestic servitude, including the establishment of a minimum age for domestic work and protection of child victims from neglect, abuse, and violence.
4) Improve evidence-gathering, investigate all cases where a victim is identified, and reduce pre-trial detention and judicial backlog.
5) Develop Haiti’s nascent foster care system and alternative residential care for children, and ensure orphanages are properly accredited, registered, and monitored.
6) Improve coordination of anti-trafficking agencies.
7) Improve law enforcement and victim case tracking and documentation.
8) Fully implement the national identification program and expand it to cover children.
9) Regularly screen returned migrants and Cuban medical workers for trafficking indicators and refer victims to services.
10) Ensure a victim-centered approach for the treatment of victims-witnesses during investigations and court proceedings, especially to ensure they are not coerced into testifying.
11) Continue to train police, prosecutors, judges, and victim service providers on the SOPs.
12) Train more labor inspectors in trafficking indicators, increase worksite inspections for indicators of labor trafficking, and increase collaboration with law enforcement to prosecute labor trafficking cases.
13) Develop laws or policies to regulate foreign labor recruiters, ensure workers are not required to pay recruitment fees, and raise awareness among potential migrant laborers.

The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The 2014 Anti-Trafficking (Anti-TIP) 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 Haitian gourdes HTG ($1,379 to $10,345), 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.

The government initiated 39 investigations: seven investigations under the Anti-TIP Law and 32 cases under child protection laws, compared with 466 investigations of crimes against children – some of which may have been trafficking – in 2021, and three trafficking cases in 2020. The government reported initiating two new prosecutions under the Anti-TIP Law, compared with not initiating any new prosecutions in 2021, two prosecutions of an unknown number of defendants in 2020, and one in 2019. The government also assigned an investigative judge in one trafficking case against one Haitian male suspected trafficker, but the prosecution had not begun by the end of the reporting period. The charges in the case stemmed from a second August 2022 raid by authorities on a brothel initially raided in August 2020; the suspect remained in pre-trial detention at the end of the reporting period. The government did not report continuing to investigate or prosecute any traffickers from the August 2020 raid. In July 2022, authorities assigned an investigative judge in a case tried under other laws against a former government minister that may have amounted to trafficking; the former minister remained in pre-trial detention at the end of the reporting period. Authorities did not report continuing any prosecutions from previous reporting periods, compared with continuing prosecution of 13 cases involving an unknown number of defendants from prior reporting periods in 2021. The government did not report convicting any traffickers, similar to the prior reporting period, compared with two convictions in 2020. The government reported 25 cases involving 39 traffickers remained unresolved since 2016.

The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking crimes; however, corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes – including high-profile cases – remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action and perpetuating impunity for trafficking crimes. Experts consistently alleged employees within the Ministry of Justice were complicit in human trafficking crimes and in cases that did not go to trial or result in conviction. Observers noted corruption at the prosecutor and investigative judge level led to gang members – some of whom may have committed trafficking crimes – being released immediately from prison when 80-85 percent of inmates were held for years in prolonged pre-trial detention. Observers also reported police and immigration officials were complicit in human trafficking crimes at the Haiti-Dominican Republic border; the Institute for Social Welfare and Research (IBESR) reported traffickers often avoided screening by crossing at unofficial points, noting official complicity and corruption greatly exacerbated the problem. Observers reported allegations that judicial officials in border jurisdictions sometimes took bribes to free detained suspected traffickers, which contributed to an environment in which traffickers largely operated with impunity. Authorities took no action against the former president of the Haitian Football Federation, banned for life by the International Federation of Football Association (FIFA) and fined one million Swiss francs ($1,083,423) for the rape and sexual abuse – at times including sex trafficking – of up to 34 females, including at least 14 girls, between 2014 and 2020; FIFA’s appeal to Switzerland’s highest court to overturn the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s ruling, in favor of the former president’s appeal to overturn his lifetime FIFA ban, remained pending at the end of the reporting period. A judge dismissed the Haitian case against the former president in 2021 due to lack of evidence; observers noted victim-witnesses likely experienced intimidation. Authorities also did not act against 10 other alleged perpetrators and accomplices in the case. The government did not take steps to prosecute any traffickers in a 2017 case in which authorities identified 31 trafficking victims, including children. An NGO reported the decision to immediately release nine of the 12 alleged traffickers in 2017 – without charging them with any offense – revealed that the commissioners purposely ignored the law. The CNLTP reported some judges did not explain why they did not process some cases, including a 2021 case involving suspected sexual abuse and child trafficking at an orphanage. Government officials did not use the anti-trafficking law to prosecute and convict the perpetrators of child domestic servitude during the reporting period. Observers noted child trafficking investigations or victim identification did not lead to the opening of criminal prosecutions against traffickers by authorities.

Widespread gang violence impeded police efforts to investigate trafficking crimes. While the CNLTP had cross-sectoral anti-trafficking task forces established in all 10 geographical departments, it could not access areas controlled by gangs, including areas in Port-au-Prince, resulting in limited law enforcement action in many regions. Criminals also attacked several courts and prosecutors’ offices; judges, prosecutors, and clerks went on strike and noted the police’s failure to provide security. Court employees reported these events contributed to confusion within the judicial system and increased case backlog.

The Haitian National Police (HNP) was responsible for law enforcement, including trafficking crimes. The HNP’s Central Directorate for Judicial Police (DCPJ) was responsible for investigations and referring cases to the judicial system. The DCPJ also oversaw the Haitian National Police-Bureau for the Protection of Minors (HNP-BPM), which investigated child trafficking cases and was the only law enforcement body with a specific anti-trafficking mandate. HNP-BPM lacked sufficient resources to fulfill its duties. Government agencies and civil society organizations referred child victims’ cases to HNP-BPM for criminal investigation. The Haitian Border Police (POLIFRONT) was responsible for ensuring secure border crossings and investigating transnational crimes, including cross-border trafficking. POLIFRONT was present at the four official Haiti-Dominican Republic border crossing points, but lacked resources to monitor other parts of the border where trafficking also occurred. Observers noted these units nonetheless were comparatively well-funded in part due to support for the HNP from a foreign donor. The DCPJ submitted case files to the district magistrate, which assigned an investigative judge to the case; this judge decided which cases to prosecute. HNP-BPM provided child trafficking case files to the judiciary for appointment of an investigative judge and eventual prosecution. The judiciary had 18 judicial districts. Trafficking prosecutions began at the Court of First Instance, where a single judge heard the case. The CNLTP, IBESR, the Ministry of Justice, and regional public prosecutor offices conducted an audit of trafficking cases in the justice and child protection systems since 2016, which resulted in reliable law enforcement and judicial data for the first time.

The government indefinitely postponed the enactment of a modified penal code because the government had not enacted the necessary provisions for its implementation. According to outside experts, the postponement of the penal code reforms was a positive development because authorities were considering weakening many provisions related to trafficking. However, the outdated and overly complex existing codes continued to delay prosecution of trafficking cases. Civil society organizations and other observers reported trafficking was not a government-wide priority and specifically criticized the government for taking no legal action on children in restavek situations. Observers noted the courts did not work properly due to political interference and inaction, disorganization, lack of institutional accountability and continuity, and outdated legislation. Government and civil society experts reported the judicial system appeared incapable of delivering justice to trafficking victims, although outside observers noted trafficking was not unique among crimes in this respect. The Superior Judicial Council, which oversaw the judiciary and attorneys, lacked the political will and oversight to adequately supervise or sufficiently sanction judicial actors and did not adequately prosecute trafficking cases.

The government slightly increased inadequate protection efforts. CNLTP identified 11 adult female sex trafficking victims; CNLTP did not report identifying any victims in the previous reporting period. The 11 victims included eight Colombians, two Peruvians, and one Cuban. From October 2021 through December 2022, POLIFRONT reported identifying 195 potential victims – 47 adults and 148 children – and confirming 13 adult and 73 child victims, but did not disaggregate the data for the current reporting period. In the previous reporting period, BPM identified 190 child labor trafficking victims, although these may have included non-trafficking victims of child exploitation and abuse. The government did not provide information on efforts in 2022 to identify victims among children in restavek situations or care provided to such previously identified victims.

The government referred all 11 CNLTP confirmed adult victims to care; nine declined assistance and refused to participate in the prosecution of the trafficker, while the other two received short-term medical and psychological support. The law required the government to provide protection, medical, legal, and psychosocial services to victims and create a government-regulated fund to assist victims, but in the continued absence of a national budget for CNLTP for part of the reporting period, the government remained reliant on international organizations and NGOs to provide most adult care. CNLTP facilitated one victim’s travel to another country to receive longer-term care at her request and repatriated one victim at her request. While the government provided legal support to some victims, CNLTP also referred these two victims to a civil society organization for legal support services. One victim provided testimony for eventual use in the case. The government reported other adult and child victims received government and NGO services, including medical and psychosocial support, security, temporary shelter or accommodation, resettlement, family reunification, school reintegration for children under age 15, and legal support. POLIFRONT reported referring 62 victims, 27 adults and 35 children, to care between October 2021 and December 2022, but did not disaggregate the data for the current reporting period. IBESR reported referring 562 adults and 404 children, of which 201 were in situations of restavek, to care between 2021 and 2023, but did not disaggregate the data for the current reporting period. In the previous reporting period, the government reported referring all 190 victims to services, including medical, psychosocial, and legal assistance.

The anti-trafficking law 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. There was no government agency with overall responsibility for providing care for adult trafficking victims, and the lack of resources and a tracking system meant the government likely failed to identify some victims. Observers noted IBESR was the only government agency that regularly provided victim care services, though the government reported other agencies also provided victim services during the reporting period.

The government continued to use SOPs finalized in the previous reporting period, which created the first national protocol for victim identification, referral, and care. The SOPs were adequate tools and observers noted the government and civil society actively implemented them. Mechanisms existed in the SOPs to administer victim referrals equitably. Under the SOPs, POLIFRONT and civil society organizations referred adult trafficking victims to the National Office of Migration (ONM); the SOPs directed authorities to allow adult victims to decline services and not to detain victims in shelters. POLIFRONT and civil society organizations referred child trafficking victims to IBESR and HNP-BPM; HNP-BPM and an NGO reported HNP-BPM coordinated with CNLTP and IBESR to provide child victim services. IBESR funded all child trafficking victim services. Children were typically in this facility until placed with a family member, foster family, or a registered and accredited private orphanage. IBESR reported children did not live in this facility for more than 90 days. IBESR had specific protocols for assessing child victims’ needs and for mediating discussions with victims. The CNLTP indicated the police provided victims physical security and IBESR assisted with family tracing and pre-return assessments before reintegration of children with their families. IBESR also provided medical, psychosocial, and legal support services. IBESR reported their facilities had limited capacities and were overburdened. IBESR reported long term orphanages and foster care homes – typically operated by NGOs or religious communities – had highly variable conditions, and IBESR had inadequate oversight of them.

The government required all privately run orphanages to be licensed, but in practice some were not. IBESR reported insecurity limited its ability to enforce closures of orphanages and foster care homes not in compliance with the 2014 anti-trafficking law. IBESR officially registered 129 of an estimated 754 institutions – the most it had ever registered – by the end of the previous reporting period; while these registrations remained valid, the government did not report new data on registrations or closures during the current reporting period. NGOs funded the only shelter and social services organization for transgender youth, which could assist those at risk of abuse or crime among this population; it housed 10 individuals during the reporting period, the same as in the previous reporting period, including some potential trafficking victims. However, the government did not contribute to the shelter.

The government continued collaboration with an international organization receiving funding from a foreign donor, NGOs, and other civil society organizations to safely repatriate and provide support to all returned Haitian migrants. Authorities worked with other countries’ maritime and airline services to receive and screen some returned Haitians for trafficking indicators and facilitated their reintegration with family members; however, the government did not report identifying any trafficking victims among this population over this reporting period. Under a project funded by two foreign donors, an international organization also provided support at official border crossing points to Haitians – possibly including trafficking victims – expelled by the Dominican Republic; the government did not report screening everyone in this vulnerable population for trafficking indicators or identifying any trafficking victims. The government, supported by an international organization, also screened and provided services to potential trafficking victims identified during migrant interdictions at sea. The SOPs included special considerations for screening foreign potential trafficking victims, but the government did not report conducting any such screenings. An estimated 186 Cuban medical personnel were active in Haiti in January 2023, down from 700 in 2018. The government did not oversee the contractual agreements between workers and the Cuban government, screen Cuban medical workers for trafficking indicators, or provide protection services for potential victims, despite recognized trafficking risks among this population and the inclusion of medical personnel as another special screening category in the SOPs.

Authorities did not require victims to participate in the investigation or prosecution of traffickers in order to access protection services. Victims had alternatives to speaking to law enforcement; victims provided testimony to an HNP investigator and through an attorney. HNP-BPM reported previously it would take steps to avoid the re-traumatization of child trafficking victims by offering to refer them to medical and psychosocial care after interventions. HNP-BPM retained one social worker on staff, who served as an alternative to speaking to law enforcement. NGOs reported victim protections codified within the law were extensive and robust. For foreign victims, the law included provisions for voluntary repatriation, temporary residency during legal proceedings, and permanent residency if the country of origin could not ensure victims’ safety or well-being. The law also provided protections for victims from penalization for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked; observers noted the government did not charge the 11 adult victims during the current reporting period with commercial sex or drug-related crimes, despite evidence of both commercial sex and drugs at the scene. However, in prior reporting periods, the government may have penalized some victims during judicial proceedings. The law allowed prosecutors to pursue cases even if victims withdrew their complaints or refused to cooperate with an investigation or prosecution. Judges could mandate compensation for related crimes under Haiti’s civil code without a separate civil process, but there were no awards for restitution or compensation during the reporting period. There were no facilities for video deposition or child-friendly facilities during legal proceedings. Experts noted the lack of government-run child 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.

CNLTP trained Haitian government agencies and authorities from the Dominican Republic on victim protection. Haitian authorities participated in binational protection workshops and a dialogue with Dominican colleagues. CNLTP, IBESR, and BPM trained: departmental anti-trafficking taskforces; local youth, women’s rights, and social protection civil society organizations; and local civil society organizations on victim identification and support. CNLTP provided forced labor-focused anti-trafficking training and the SOPs to Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MAST) inspectors, Haitian social security institution employees, magistrates, a Justice of the Peace, and two regional anti-trafficking taskforces.

The government decreased efforts to prevent trafficking. The previous president appointed members of the CNLTP, which included representatives from nine agencies, two “counselors” from civil society organizations, and one representative from the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman. The CNLTP undertook most of its coordinating activities virtually. While CNLTP remained the formally designated government entity tasked to lead and coordinate the fight against human trafficking, CNLTP reported coordinated government anti-trafficking activities “collapsed” following the end of a foreign donor project in July 2022; most committee members subsequently left their posts by the end of the reporting period despite a legal requirement to adequately fund anti-trafficking activities and MAST’s responsibility to fund the CNLTP. The 10 regional sub-committees also suffered staff departures. Observers noted CNLTP continued some programming and activities in the first five months of the reporting period; it ceased activities for the second part of the reporting period due to lack of funding. In March 2023, the government provided 40 million HTG ($275,862) to fund the current NAP in Fiscal Year 2023. This was the first direct funding to the CNLTP as a standalone entity to implement NAP activities. However, observers noted the government did not provide adequate funding for victim assistance. At the end of the reporting period, all CNLTP representative seats were vacant except those occupied by the president and IBESR deputy director. The government lacked a national, centralized database, and although it began developing one with the assistance of an NGO and a foreign donor in the previous reporting period, the project remained incomplete at the end of the reporting period. POLIFRONT, IBESR, CNLTP, and HNP-BPM all maintained separate databases; however, observers noted the government significantly improved its internal data collection methodologies during the reporting period.

Using a public-private 2021 study on public knowledge of trafficking and trends, the CNLTP – in cooperation with civil society partners and with funds from a foreign donor – carried out a needs assessment project in December 2022 that helped prioritize activities for eventual NAP funds. The government supported an NGO’s study on the implementation of the 2014 anti-trafficking law that observers noted was the most comprehensive assessment undertaken to date; the study was made available to the public. CNLTP, in collaboration with an NGO held awareness-raising events for high school students. CNLTP, in collaboration with an NGO, held awareness-raising events with city delegates and neighborhood administrators, Ministry of Interior officials, civil society organizations, and Catholic religious leaders in Port-au-Prince. CNLTP also held awareness-raising activities with the regional task forces, HNP, National Office of Migration, immigration officials, Coast Guard officials, and local civil society organizations. CNLTP sent anti-trafficking messages on social media, including about situations of restavek. The government used public radio and other media platforms to warn migrants on dangers, including trafficking. Two hotlines could be used to report child trafficking cases. In August 2022, IBESR restored its emergency child protection hotline number for reports of any form of child exploitation, including situations of restavek; IBESR reported identifying 17 such children through the hotline. A general HNP hotline also was available to report trafficking crimes against adults. The government did not report identifying any victims through the HNP hotline.

The government required IBESR authorization for children to travel outside the country’s borders. However, the continued dysfunction of the civil registry system and weak consular capacity to provide identification documentation left many Haitians at risk of remaining undocumented in the Dominican Republic, subject to deportation and vulnerable to trafficking. As of January 6, 2023, the government had registered 5,726,773 citizens over the age of 18 and issued 4,587,859 ID cards under a biometric ID card program begun during a previous reporting period. Since the beginning of the reporting period, the government registered 356,220 new citizens and issued 254,033 new ID cards. The government reported fuel shortages severely disrupted registration activities in 2022 and the government reported a lack of funding in the budget to expand the program to those older than the age of 13 left children vulnerable to trafficking.

The government had no clear strategy for conducting labor inspections. Although the labor code required recruiters to obtain a license and prohibited charging recruitment fees, Haiti did not effectively regulate foreign labor recruiters, prevent fraudulent recruiting, or have plans to raise awareness of the risks for potential migrant laborers. The government lacked sufficient staff and resources to inspect a sufficient number of worksites for indicators of labor trafficking, particularly in the informal sector. However, the government certified 29 labor inspectors as trained in identifying forced labor – following anti-trafficking training in collaboration with an international organization in 2021 – and reported carrying out inspections for child labor and identifying trafficking cases. The lack of a minimum age for domestic work and exceptions in the laws governing child labor hindered investigations and prosecutions of child domestic servitude. The government reported IBESR staff and labor inspectors had not received sufficient training on child labor issues. The government did not report or publish data on child work, child labor, or the worst forms of child labor. Various government agencies participated in an anti-trafficking roundtable hosted by a foreign embassy following a new foreign humanitarian parole program for migrants. The government provided anti-trafficking training to its diplomats and the 2014 anti-trafficking law provided strict sanctions for public officials complicit in trafficking. The government did not make efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts. The law required resorts, restaurants, and bars to report any suspected incidents of child sex tourism to IBESR and HNP-BPM, but the government did not report any referrals or investigating any cases of child sex tourism. Haitian law did not prohibit Haitian nationals from engaging in sex tourism abroad.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Haiti and traffickers exploit victims from Haiti abroad. In 2023, the CNLTP estimated three million Haitians were at risk of trafficking. During the reporting period, Haiti experienced additional multiple crises including gang violence; major fuel shortages; substantial irregular migration outflows; internal populations displacements; a cholera epidemic; the breakdown of basic infrastructure; and the government’s inability to provide basic services, all of which observers noted increased vulnerability to trafficking and reduced government capacity to address it. Most of Haiti’s trafficking cases involve children in forced labor and sex trafficking in restavek situations, in which children are often physically abused, receive no payment for services, and have significantly lower school enrollment rates. In 2022, an NGO estimated that of those children in restavek situations, two-thirds are girls, mostly victims of sex trafficking, and one-third boys, mostly victims of labor trafficking. In 2021, NGOs estimated between 150,000 and 300,000 children worked in domestic servitude. In 2022, a foreign donor-funded NGO study of 530 Haitians reported that 5.6 percent reported having a child in a situation of restavek, and among vulnerable families, a third had sent their child away in a situation of restavek and over two-thirds had sent a child to an institution. Many children, and a majority of the boys, flee or are cast out of these situations and begin to live and/or work on the street, facing further risk of re-trafficking. The number of children in this situation likely increased during the pandemic. “Orphanage entrepreneurs” operate unlicensed orphanages that exploit children in trafficking. In October 2021, an NGO estimated that 30,000 children were in approximately 750 orphanages, of which the government had at the time only licensed 35-50. Approximately 80 percent of children in orphanages have at least one living parent, who may place children in an institution deemed more likely to be able to care for them, and almost all have other family members.

Female foreign nationals, especially citizens of the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, are particularly at risk for sex and labor trafficking in Haiti, including on social media. Commercial sex typically takes place in upscale neighborhoods and resort areas to cater to foreigners. According to NGOs, international child sex tourism also occurs in Haiti, with the primary sex tourists being from the United States, Canada, and Europe. Practices include “bride-buying,” in which men pay between $100 to $200 to the families of girls as young as 14. Traffickers also target: children in private and NGO-sponsored residential care centers; Haitian children working in construction, agriculture, fisheries, domestic work, begging, and street vending; IDPs, including those displaced by natural disasters; those who are stateless or at risk of becoming stateless; LGBTQI+ youth often left homeless and stigmatized by their families and society; and those affected by gang violence, which increased during the reporting period. Gangs employ tactics that increase vulnerabilities to trafficking, including forced domestic servitude; mass displacement; manipulation of youth; and systematic sexual violence to intimidate, coerce, extort, or recruit. The government lacks control of areas where gangs are in charge, reducing law enforcement action and increasing risks for potential victims.

The risks to migrants remained high during the reporting period, including from migrant smugglers who exploit migrant women in commercial sex to repay alleged debts. Almost 15,000 migrants were repatriated to Haiti by air, with the highest concentration in May 2022. The number of Haitian terrestrial migrants moving through South and Central America, originating most often from Brazil and Chile, decreased as the other countries improved policies to deter undocumented Haitian migration on these routes and offered alternatives for regular migration pathways. Although maritime migration flow sustained a four-month low of fewer than 500 Haitians per month from September through December 2022, January 2023 saw a surge of 2,187 Haitians attempt maritime migration routes. Haitian maritime migrants were disproportionately impoverished and highly vulnerable to migrant smugglers and traffickers, who charge migrants exorbitant fees for passage to Florida or Puerto Rico across Cuban, Bahamian, Dominican, and international waters, often under false pretenses to exploit them. Among all Haitian migrant groups, terrestrial migrants traversing the Dominican Republic-Haiti border seeking economic opportunities were the largest and most vulnerable to trafficking. According to international organization psychologists present on site during the reporting period, many returned migrants reported experiencing some form of trafficking or fraudulent exploitation scheme either while traversing South and Central America or in boarding a migrant vessel departing from Haiti. Common forms of cross-border trafficking of Haitians, often involving fraudulent recruitment, include forced labor in the Dominican construction, service, and agricultural industries and sex trafficking in the Dominican tourism industry. Haitian adults and children also are at risk of fraudulent labor recruitment and forced labor in other Caribbean countries, South America, and the United States. Cuban medical workers have had a continuous presence in the country since 1998 and may have been forced to work by the Cuban government. The temporary closure of schools and pressure due to economic difficulties exacerbated vulnerability during the pandemic. A 2022 NGO study concluded that the implementation of the 2014 anti-trafficking law was inadequate and offered several key recommendations, including to train judges and police officers; strengthen the operational capacity of CNLTP by funding it as legally mandated; make legal progress on key cases; investigate cases, and raise public awareness about trafficking. A December 2020 survey found that many Haitians lacked basic knowledge about human trafficking and the resources available to get help; 71 percent of respondents were unable to differentiate between human trafficking and GBV, only 18 percent knew of a phone number to report a suspected trafficking crime, and just 3 percent had heard of the CNLTP.

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