Last Updated: Thursday, 28 August 2014, 12:42 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Dominican Republic

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Dominican Republic, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee8241.html [accessed 28 August 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 Watch List)

The Dominican Republic is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. In part due to significant, poverty-driven migration into and from the country, there is widespread confusion among the public, the media, government officials, and even some NGOs about the difference between human trafficking and human smuggling, complicating efforts to address human trafficking in the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, reports from various sources in the Dominican Republic and Caribbean 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 various developed countries. Officials and NGOs have documented many cases of children being forced into domestic service, street vending, begging, agricultural work, and construction. Reportedly, forced labor of adults exists in construction, some agricultural production, and the domestic service sectors. Street children and 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. Despite some progress, most notably in the area of identifying and protecting a greater number of trafficking victims, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts over the previous reporting period in prosecuting trafficking offenders, including officials complicit in forced prostitution and forced labor; therefore, the Dominican Republic is placed on Tier 2 Watch List.

Recommendations for the Dominican Republic: Vigorously prosecute and punish trafficking offenders, including public officials complicit in forced prostitution or forced labor; encourage the identification of more victims by working with NGOs to establish formal procedures to guide police and other officials in identifying trafficking victims, especially those in the legalized sex trade, and referring them to available services; institute formal, ongoing training for police, border officials, labor inspectors, and health officials on the difference between smuggling and trafficking, and in identifying, documenting, and assisting victims of forced prostitution and forced labor; ensure adequate shelter and services are available to adult and child victims; establish formal legal alternatives to removal for foreign victims to countries where they would face retribution or hardship; in coordination with the Government of Haiti, implement a forced labor and forced prostitution awareness campaign in Spanish and Creole connected to a hotline with operators trained to assist human trafficking victims; and consider ways to lessen the confusion between smuggling and trafficking, such as separating trafficking and smuggling into two different laws.

Prosecution

The government made limited progress in law enforcement efforts during the reporting period, though it failed to prosecute a single person for trafficking in persons under the Dominican law (Law 137-03) that prohibits all forms of human trafficking. This law prescribes penalties of up to 20 years' imprisonment. Such penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Law 137-03 covers both trafficking and smuggling, exacerbating the confusion that exists about the difference between the two terms. The government reported at least 35 investigations of either forced labor or forced prostitution, a substantial increase from only one reported investigation last year. The national police appointed a new director of the anti-trafficking police unit who, upon his arrival in January 2011, reviewed 17 pending case files for possible human trafficking, of which he forwarded nine to the prosecution service.

The government did not report any prosecutions, convictions, or sentences of trafficking offenders or officials complicit in human trafficking during the reporting period. Reports continued that official complicity was a problem, and some alleged trafficking offenders made deals to compensate victims in lieu of criminal prosecution. There also were indications that the government handled some forced labor cases as non-criminal disputes instead of as a crime – possibly as the result of the intervention of corrupt officials. In an effort to enhance capacity, the Directorate of Migration trained 604 officials and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs trained 158 staff members in trafficking awareness during the reporting period.

Protection

The government made limited progress in the identification and protection of victims during the reporting period. In a positive development, the government greatly boosted victim protection efforts from the previous year (when very few victims were identified), identifying at least 88 likely victims over the past year. Some 56 cases involved forced labor, and at least 54 of those identified were children. The government did not have a formal mechanism to guide officials, such as police, labor inspectors, and health workers, in proactively identifying victims among vulnerable groups, such as people in prostitution and migrant workers, and refer them to available services. In practice, however, possible victims were referred to assistance services and efforts to identify possible victims proactively stepped up during the reporting period. The government did not have any measures in place to protect people in the Dominican Republic's legal sex trade from human trafficking systematically or to identify victims within this vulnerable population. In practice, during the reporting period, the Directorate of Migration, the police, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – including Dominican diplomats overseas – and other government agencies referred identified adult victims to NGOs and child victims to NGOs and a government agency charged with assisting vulnerable minors. Many of the NGOs that assist trafficking victims rely on donor funding. One NGO that receives some government funding provided female trafficking victims with health services, psychological support, legal advice, and job skills training. The government did not provide formal long-term reintegration assistance programs for trafficking victims, and Dominican trafficking victims exploited overseas were offered limited assistance upon return to the Dominican Republic. The government did not offer foreign trafficking victims legal alternatives to their deportation to countries in which they would face retribution. In its anti-trafficking legislation, the government mandates that victims participating in prosecutions of trafficking offenders should not be punished for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked.

Prevention

The government made some progress in the prevention of trafficking during the reporting period. The government publicly unveiled its National Anti-Trafficking Action Plan at a June 2010 conference co-sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That same ministry worked with an international organization to raise awareness about human trafficking and the availability of hotlines for possible trafficking victims. Also, the Directorate of Migration prepared a brochure and produced some radio and television spots to sensitize the public to human trafficking. The Directorate of Migration held meetings during the reporting period with various NGOs to address the plight of street children. The government had a human trafficking inter-ministerial coordination group, but did not appear to have a mechanism in place to monitor systematically the government's efforts. The government operated several hotlines that had operators trained to assist trafficking victims; the government reported helping over 30 victims of trafficking through the hotlines. The agency charged with assisting vulnerable children worked with the National Association of Hotels and Restaurants to raise awareness of the problem of child sex tourism and to prevent it, and the First Lady's Office provided some funding to an organization that conducts trafficking prevention projects in a beach area during the reporting period. The government did not undertake efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period.

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