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2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Dominican Republic

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Dominican Republic, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30ccf5a.html [accessed 25 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC (Tier 2)

The Dominican Republic is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Reports indicate that Dominican women and children are subjected to sex trafficking throughout the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean, Europe, South America, the Middle East, and the United States. Additionally, child sex tourism is a problem, particularly in coastal resort areas of the Dominican Republic, with child sex tourists arriving year-round from the United States and European countries. Dominican officials and NGOs have documented cases of children being forced into domestic service, street vending, begging, agricultural work, and construction. Reportedly, forced labor of adults exists in construction, some sectors of agricultural production, and service sectors. Street children and the large population of undocumented or stateless people of Haitian descent are groups particularly vulnerable to trafficking, though authorities identified Dominican victims in the Dominican Republic as well.

The Government of the Dominican Republic does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the government made notable progress in identifying and assisting child trafficking victims as well as convicting child trafficking offenders. Authorities continued to face challenges in addressing official complicity, proactively identifying and protecting adult trafficking victims, coordinating the government's anti-trafficking efforts, and addressing the demand for human trafficking within the country.

Recommendations for the Dominican Republic: Vigorously prosecute and punish offenders involved in the trafficking of children and adults, including public officials complicit in forced prostitution or forced labor; encourage the identification and documentation of more victims by working with NGOs to establish formal procedures for officials' identification of adult and child trafficking victims, especially those in the legalized sex trade, and referring them to available services; ensure adequate shelter and services are available to adult male victims; establish formal legal alternatives to removal for foreign victims to countries where they would face retribution or hardship; empower an interagency task force that meets regularly and is made up of police, prosecutors, victim services providers, and NGOs with tools and resources to ensure coordination of anti-trafficking efforts, justice for perpetrators, and restorative care for victims; implement a forced labor and forced prostitution awareness campaign in Spanish and Creole that targets the demand for commercial sex acts and forced labor as well as trafficking victims.

Prosecution

The government made clear progress in prosecuting trafficking offenders during the reporting period. Dominican Law 137-03 of 2003 prohibits all forms of human trafficking and prescribes penalties of up to 20 years' imprisonment with fines. Such penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government reported at least 39 new human trafficking investigations during the reporting period, an increase from 35 investigations last year, and 14 new sex trafficking prosecutions and eight forced labor prosecutions, a noted improvement from the lack of any confirmed prosecutions last year. The government also reported five new convictions for sex trafficking offenders, all of which involved child sex trafficking; this contrasts with no convictions reported in the preceding reporting period. Convicted offenders received sentences ranging from one to ten years' imprisonment. One sentence – for two years' imprisonment – was suspended, and one prosecution resulted in an acquittal that the government has since appealed. Official complicity with trafficking remained a problem, but the government did not report any prosecutions, convictions, or sentences of trafficking officials complicit in human trafficking during the reporting period. Despite the lack of prosecutions of government officials, the Dominican government demonstrated a willingness to investigate possible trafficking cases with potential official ties. One alleged case of prostitution of a child involving members of the military was swiftly investigated, the military members were detained, and the case was referred to civilian prosecutors for action. In this particular instance, officials determined the case did not involve child trafficking. In labor trafficking cases that also involved other labor violations, the prosecution of the trafficking case reportedly was conditional on the success of the separate labor violation proceedings, and in cases where the labor proceeding was dismissed or withdrawn due to victim intimidation or bribery, the trafficking case was brought to a standstill.

In February 2012, the District Attorney for Santo Domingo announced the creation of a new dedicated unit to investigate and prosecute cases of trafficking. The government reported it spent the equivalent of over $112,000 on trafficking-specific training during the reporting period, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' specialized training for ministry officials and 467 members of the Tourism Police.

Protection

The government made progress in the identification and protection of child trafficking victims during the reporting period, though progress in the identification and protection of adult victims was less apparent. During the reporting period, the government reportedly identified 76 adult and child trafficking victims. It was not clear how many of these victims were in forced labor or sex trafficking. The Dominican Republic's trafficking statute mandates that trafficking victims shall receive physical, psychological, and social assistance, as well as advice and information regarding their rights from government agencies in coordination with NGOs. The government did not report the amount of funding that it spent on trafficking victim protection during the year. The government operated short-term shelter facilities for adult female and child trafficking victims during the reporting period; however, it did not offer specialized care for male trafficking victims. The government's child protection agency reported assisting 60 child trafficking victims in cooperation with NGOs during the reporting period. The government did not, however, provide data on the number of adult trafficking victims, if any, to whom its agencies offered assistance. The government did not develop or implement formal procedures to guide many front-line responders, such as police, labor inspectors, and health workers, on how to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable groups, such as people in the Dominican Republic's legalized sex trade and migrant workers, and refer them to available services. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in partnership with IOM, developed and disseminated a comprehensive consular manual on addressing human trafficking cases and assisted with the rescue and repatriation of at least six Dominican trafficking victims during the reporting period. The government did not provide formal long-term reintegration assistance programs for repatriated Dominican trafficking victims, or legal alternatives to foreign victims' deportation, though the government provided limited immigration relief for Haitian child victims of trafficking displaced as a result of the earthquake. Although the Dominican trafficking law protects victims from being punished for crimes committed as a direct result of their being trafficked, there were reports of some victims being detained and fined by law enforcement.

Prevention

The government made some progress in the prevention of human trafficking during the reporting period. The government, in partnership with NGOs, undertook some public awareness efforts to clarify the difference between human trafficking and human smuggling. The Office of the First Lady launched an anti-trafficking website to provide information on the legal framework, government institutions and NGOs addressing trafficking, as well as a mechanism for victims to report cases. In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Women continued additional anti-trafficking campaigns. The General Migration Directorate carried out a national radio campaign to create awareness about the exploitation of street children. The Dominican government announced a plan to issue identity cards to resident and nonresident temporary workers, including undocumented Haitians, although the Minister of Migration noted that workers must first present proof of citizenship in order to receive the cards. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs chaired an interagency anti-trafficking commission. There were reports that the commission has had limited effectiveness as a coordinating body because it lacked adequate staffing and did not hold regular meetings. The Dominican government, with assistance from a foreign government, maintained a specialized police unit empowered to vigorously investigate and prosecute child sex tourism cases in the Dominican Republic. The Office of the First Lady signed a memorandum of understanding with an NGO to educate travel agency workers on human trafficking. The government did not undertake efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor during the reporting period.

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