Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Dominican Republic


The Dominican Republic is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor. A large number of Dominican women are trafficked into prostitution and sexual exploitation in Western Europe, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama, Haiti, and other Caribbean destinations. A significant number of women, boys, and girls are trafficked within the country for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. In some cases, poor parents push children into prostitution to increase the family's income. Sex tourism and child sex tourism are problems, particularly in coastal resort areas. Sex tourists, including child predators, typically arrive from Western Europe (i.e., Spain, Italy, and Germany), though some Canadian and U.S. citizens may be offenders as well. Some Haitian nationals who migrate voluntary to the Dominican Republic are subsequently subjected to forced labor in the service, construction, and agricultural sectors; in some cases, the irregular status of these migrants, which places them at risk for deportation, leaves them vulnerable to trafficking by unscrupulous employers. Many of these victims live in bateyes – which can resemble shantytowns – or other squalid living conditions. Some Haitian children, known as restaveks, are reportedly trafficked into conditions of domestic servitude.

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. The Dominican Republic is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year for its failure to show evidence of increasing efforts to combat human trafficking, particularly in terms of providing increased assistance to victims and undertaking vigorous actions to counter official complicity with trafficking activity.

Recommendations for the Dominican Republic: Increase efforts to prosecute and punish trafficking offenders, especially public officials complicit with human trafficking activity; increase investigations into potential labor trafficking activity; increase victim assistance and shelter services; provide greater legal protections for foreign and undocumented trafficking victims; increase efforts to identify and care for Haitian trafficking victims; increase prevention and demand-reduction efforts; and increase anti-trafficking training for government and judicial officials.


The Government of the Dominican Republic increased law enforcement efforts against trafficking offenders, but did not adequately investigate and prosecute public officials who may be complicit with trafficking activity. The Dominican Republic prohibits all forms of trafficking through its comprehensive anti-trafficking law, Law 137-03, which prescribes penalties of up to 20 years' imprisonment. Such penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other grave offenses, such as rape. During the reporting period, the government opened 25 sex trafficking investigations, most involving child victims; this represents improved efforts over last year. One pending investigation involves allegations against a German national for trafficking 12 Haitian women into the Dominican Republic for exploitation through internet-based pornography. The German national is currently imprisoned, another foreigner involved in the scheme was deported, and a third dual Dominican-Israeli citizen was released. Seven additional trafficking cases were submitted for formal prosecution, and five trials are ongoing. No convictions or sentences were secured during the reporting period, and no criminal investigations of public officials have been initiated, despite reported complicity among many lower-level police, border, and military officials with trafficking activity. In early 2007, press reports alleged that high-level consular and immigration officials were directly involved with the smuggling of Chinese nationals, some of them trafficking victims, to the Dominican Republic. While prosecutors conducted informal interviews to investigate these allegations, they reported difficulty in gaining access to additional information which other government agencies may possess; an in-depth and formal probe, including the use of Chinese interpreters to interview alleged victims, has not been conducted. During the reporting period, the government cooperated on international cases involving the trafficking of Dominican women to Argentina, Switzerland, and Turkey. Expanded anti-trafficking training for public officials, particularly relating to distinctions between alien smuggling and human trafficking offenses, would assist the government's law enforcement efforts.


The government's efforts to protect trafficking victims remained inadequate over the year, and it continued to rely heavily on NGOs and international organizations to provide the bulk of shelter and protection services. While the government maintains shelters and programs for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, specialized assistance for trafficking victims is not available. Moreover, government services are generally not accessible to victims who are undocumented foreign migrants. The government made no concerted effort to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations, although it trained consular officials posted abroad on recognizing and assisting Dominican nationals trafficked overseas. Victims are not typically jailed or penalized for crimes committed as a direct result of being trafficked. However, there were reports that some prostituted children were briefly detained during police sweeps, and may not be recognized as trafficking victims by police and community members. Dominican authorities generally encourage victims to assist with the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers, though some victims of Haitian descent have been deported prior to trial. In some cases, undocumented victims were deported after providing witness statements, and were thus unavailable to provide live testimony at the trials of their traffickers. However, last year the government instituted a new mechanism for referring foreign trafficking victims to IOM for repatriation instead of detaining and deporting victims for immigration violations; these victims may return to the Dominican Republic to assist with prosecution efforts. Many victims of sex trafficking reported being reluctant to assist in the prosecution of traffickers out of shame and embarrassment. Providing victims with access to psychological counseling, in addition to increased NGO or government support during court proceedings, should assist the government's prosecution efforts. The government does not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution. Greater efforts to assure protection to Haitians and undocumented persons of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic would increase the government's ability to assist trafficking victims.


The government increased prevention efforts by widely publicizing an anti-trafficking hotline sponsored by the Attorney General's Office and the Ricky Martin Foundation. Senior officials such as the First Lady publicly condemned human trafficking during the reporting period. The government formalized an interagency anti-trafficking working group with the goal of developing a national strategy to combat trafficking and improving victim protection. The government continued a prevention campaign against child sex tourism at ports of entry, as well as numerous youth awareness sessions at schools across the country. The government also took measures to reduce demand for commercial sex acts with children through criminal prosecutions; during the reporting year, there were two trials involving Spanish and German tourists engaged in the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

Dominican Republic tier ranking by year


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