2020 Trafficking in Persons Report: Haiti
Human trafficking happens in every country and could happen to anyone.
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 remained on Tier 2. These efforts included investigating more traffickers, establishing an executive secretariat to improve monitoring and analysis of trafficking within the National Anti-Trafficking Committee, addressing the weak judicial system and lack of awareness about trafficking among law enforcement officials with targeted training, prosecuting labor trafficking offenses, and building capacity for alternative shelters for vulnerable minors. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not convict traffickers during the reporting year. 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 did little to combat the system of child domestic servitude (restavek).
The government did not convict traffickers during the reporting year. 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 did little to combat the system of child domestic servitude (restavek).
Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, including complicit officials and those responsible for domestic servitude and child sex trafficking.
• Fund and continue to implement the national anti-trafficking action plan, in particular funding victim assistance and establishing victim shelters.
• Train police, prosecutors, judges, and victim service providers in victim-centered and trauma-informed formal procedures to identify, protect, and refer trafficking victims to appropriate shelters and services.
• Educate the Haitian public with traditional and social media about children’s rights to freedom and education, and ban forced labor of domestic workers, including domestic servitude.
• Continue to develop Haiti’s nascent foster care system and alternative residential care for children.
• 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.
• Develop laws or policies to regulate foreign labor recruiters, ban worker-paid fees, and raise awareness among potential migrant laborers.
• Implement measures to address the vulnerabilities leading to forced labor in domestic service, including establishment of a minimum age for domestic work and protecting child victims of neglect, abuse, and violence.
The human trafficking industry makes roughly $32 billion each year, according to Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. The Polaris Project, the organization that handles the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline, reported a 40 percent increase in calls after many states initiated a shelter-in-place order.
The government maintained law enforcement efforts. The 2014 Anti-Trafficking (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 gourdes ($2,280 to $17,110), 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 minor. Despite civil unrest affecting transportation, courtrooms, and offices, the government investigated nine trafficking cases involving 19 suspects during the reporting period, compared with nine trafficking cases in 2018 and two cases in 2017. The police Brigade for the Protection of Minors (BPM) reported investigating cases involving 33 defendants for forced labor of minors.
The government initiated one prosecution for sex trafficking during the reporting period, compared with seven prosecutions in 2018 and two prosecutions in 2017. The government did not report any convictions during the reporting period, although the conviction of a trafficker in March 2019 for sex trafficking of a minor previously unaccounted for was reported.
The court sentenced the trafficker to 15 years’ imprisonment and ordered him to pay a fine of 100,000 gourdes ($1,140) at the end of the prior reporting period. The government reported six convictions in 2019 and one conviction in 2017. The Border Police Force arrested 51 individuals suspected in 35 trafficking cases during the reporting period.
Observers reported allegations that judicial officials in border jurisdictions, such as justices of the peace, sometimes took bribes to free detained suspected human traffickers, which contributed to an environment where traffickers largely operated with impunity.
While there were no reported cases of official complicity, immunity for high officials and difficulty in initiating prosecutions against lower ranking public officials would make it difficult to prosecute complicit officials.
The outdated penal and criminal procedural code continued to delay cases, as did the lack of oversight by the Superior Council of the Judiciary (CSPJ) charged with independently overseeing the judiciary. The CSPJ filled the vacancy of the CSPJ Inspections Unit Chief, whose role influenced the timeliness of judicial adjudication and reduced pretrial detention. The Ministry of Justice and Public Security’s Legal Assistance Offices had identified trafficking cases, but many of the cases ended in the accused being released without trial in 2018.
The National Committee for the Fight Against Human Trafficking (CNLTP) actively monitored trafficking cases in the court system and sent members to towns outside of the capital to observe the prosecution of trafficking-related cases and advocate for the victims.
The government increased training on trafficking prevention, victim care, and the application of the TIP Law; the Haitian Magistrate’s School (EMA) led six seminars on the law for 128 prosecutors, judges, and police officers between May and September in an effort to address weaknesses in the system. EMA also organized a seminar on sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking for 170 representatives of the national police, judges, and civil society representatives. The CNLTP collaborated with an international partner in December to train 19 immigration officials in the profiles of traffickers and potential victims. A group of Haitian anti-trafficking leaders, including a senator, members of CNLTP, media, and civil society participated in an international exchange program in May on innovative law enforcement strategies to prevent and prosecute trafficking and policy initiatives to provide social services to victims. Ten judicial and law enforcement officials participated in training on identifying human trafficking indicators and child exploitation at an overseas course in June.
The National Migration Office collaborated with an international organization to install a new migration information database at a major border crossing point in November to assist with identifying suspected traffickers. The CNLTP and the national police coordinated with their counterparts in the Dominican Republic on an investigation involving a Dominican national who was a victim of sex trafficking in Haiti.
The government maintained efforts to identify and protect victims of trafficking; however, outside observers and government interlocutors noted the government provided limited services to victims of trafficking and largely depended on partners to fund and provide services.
Although the government did not systematically track data regarding victim identification, the border police turned over 24 potential victims of trafficking to the Haitian Social Welfare Agency (IBESR) during the reporting period.
An NGO also reported that there were three victims identified during the reporting period. Due to the lack of a budget, authorities relied on international organizations and NGOs to fund and provide services in a piecemeal fashion, which became an increased challenge because of the large number of Haitians repatriated from The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and the Dominican Republic during the reporting period. IBESR referred child victims to government-registered residential care centers for services, which varied from short-term medical and counseling services, family tracing, and pre-return assessments to limited support before returning children to their families. As a measure to prevent an increase in child trafficking during the ongoing pandemic, IBESR informed orphanages and residential childcare centers that they could not receive additional children or transfer children out of their institution without the consent of IBESR and the Ministry of Public Health.
Experts noted that the lack of government-run shelter facilities impeded prosecutions because the government’s policy of returning child victims to their families made it difficult to locate witnesses to testify against the accused.
Despite IBESR’s policy restricting unaccompanied minors from leaving the country without written parental authorization, officials indicated that the porousness of the Haiti-Dominican Republic border allowed traffickers to move vulnerable individuals across for labor trafficking and sex trafficking.
The TIP law tasked the CNLTP with developing standard operating procedures (SOPs) to guide officials in the identification and rehabilitation of trafficking victims; the staff of CNLTP collaborated with two international organizations to complete the SOPs.
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 national budget, and therefore there was no funding for victim services. The government continued to rely on international organizations and NGOs to provide care.
The TIP 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 worked with other countries’ maritime and airline services to receive and screen returned Haitians for trafficking indicators and facilitated their reintegration with family members.
The government reported that IBESR staff and labor inspectors have not received sufficient training on child labor issues, despite a study indicating that more than 286,000 children— some of whom were likely exploited in forced labor—were working in domestic service.
Government officials have rarely used the TIP law to prosecute and convict the perpetrators of exploitation of child domestic servants. BPM investigated calls referred from a 24-hour trafficking hotline, but the lack of a minimum age for domestic work and exceptions in the laws governing child labor rendered investigations and prosecutions of child domestic servitude difficult.
There was no government agency with overall responsibility for adult trafficking victims, and the lack of resources and a system for tracking the crime indicated that victims have fallen through the gaps.
The TIP law included provisions for temporary residency for foreign victims during legal proceedings, as well as access to legal counsel, interpretation services, and permanent residency; however, the government did not provide these services. There were no facilities for video depositions or child-friendly spaces during legal proceedings. The law mandates that legal assistance must be provided to trafficking victims and protects victims from culpability for unlawful acts their traffickers compelled them to commit. Judges could mandate civil restitution for related crimes under Haiti’s civil code, but did not do so during the reporting period.
The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The Minister of Social Affairs and Labor (MAST) appointed two officials to the Executive Secretariat of the Committee to monitor trafficking in persons developments nationwide, analyze trafficking trends, and draft reports.
CNLTP completed the annual trafficking in persons report for 2018-2019 as part of the 2017-2022 national action plan.
The government’s 2018-2019 draft budget included funding for the CNLTP, but parliament did not pass a budget for the second year in a row. In 2016, the most recent year CNLTP received funding, it received 10 million gourdes ($114,080).
A lack of resources and buy-in from its constituent ministries hampered progress in the reporting period on implementing provisions of the TIP law and the establishment of a special fund for trafficking in persons to support anti-trafficking initiatives and assist victims.
The CNLTP partnered with an international donor on a $5.6 million project to develop an anti-trafficking in persons task force of law enforcement, judicial actors, and IBESR representatives to focus on identification of trafficking cases and victims, support investigations and prosecutions, and support the establishment of CNLTP subcommittees in all 10 regions of the country.
The CNLTP officially presented the national action plan to the public in July in collaboration with its partner organization and another country. CNLTP members raised awareness of trafficking by working with the Human Rights Ombudsman (OPC) and an international partner to organize trainings for 21 regional-level journalists, media correspondents, and newsroom directors from across Haiti in December.
The OPC partnered with an international organization to train 24 provincial representatives and affiliated youth human rights group members on human trafficking and the role of national institutions in the fight against trafficking. MAST, together with IBESR and the BPM, hosted events during the reporting period to raise awareness on forced child labor, and MAST officials received training on identifying forced labor from international labor experts.
The government’s National Tripartite Committee developed a national action plan to combat the worst forms of child labor and updated the list of hazardous work for children younger than 18 as part of the national child labor policy.
In April, the CNLTP discussed human trafficking and the government’s anti-trafficking efforts on radio stations in several regions and participated in a prominent radio show in one of the biggest border towns.
The government collaborated with another country to recognize International Trafficking Day in July by presenting the national action plan to the public. The Director General of IBESR gave an interview published by international press about the government’s efforts to establish foster homes as an alternative to abusive orphanages and about the government’s barring unlicensed orphanages from opening.
The continued dysfunction of the Haitian civil registry system and weak consular capacity to provide identity documents left many Haitians at risk of remaining undocumented in the Dominican Republic and subject to deportation—recognized risk factors for vulnerability to trafficking.
Although the labor code required labor recruiters and businesses to obtain a license, Haiti did not have effective laws or policies to regulate foreign labor recruiters, prevent fraudulent recruiting, plans to raise awareness of the risks for potential migrant laborers. The government lacked staff and resources to inspect worksites for indicators of labor trafficking, although 50 labor inspectors were trained to detect forced labor in labor sites. The government did not take proactive measures to prevent trafficking by its diplomats, although the TIP law provides strict sanctions for public officials complicit in trafficking. The government did not make efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts.
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 forced labor in domestic service, commonly called restavek, who often are physically abused, receive no payment for services rendered, and have significantly lower school enrollment rates.
A 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—some of whom are likely exploited in forced labor—work as domestic servants. Many children flee situations of domestic servitude, become street children, and face further risk of retrafficking.
A study released in 2018 found significant numbers of children in orphanages are likely victims of trafficking and approximately 50 of the total 750 orphanages in Haiti are either licensed or becoming officially licensed. Female foreign nationals, particularly citizens of the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, are particularly at risk for sex and labor trafficking in Haiti. 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 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, The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Brazil, Mexico, or the United States; and LGBTI youth often left homeless and stigmatized by their families and society.
Haitian adults and children are at risk for fraudulent labor recruitment and forced labor, primarily in the Dominican Republic, other Caribbean countries, South America, and the United States.