By Jacqueline Charles
The U.S. State Department commended Haiti’s government Thursday in doing more to curb human trafficking. But the country’s failure to convict traffickers, properly fund anti-trafficking efforts and protect children show that it is still failing to meet the minimum standards in key areas to eliminate the criminal exploitation altogether.
Under the State Department’s latest Trafficking in Persons report, Haiti remains a Tier 2 country, which means the government isn’t fully in compliance but “is making significant efforts.”
Among those efforts, the report released Thursday highlighted: The investigation of nine trafficking cases involving 19 suspects in 2019 compared with nine cases in 2018 and two in 2017; the investigation of 33 defendants for forced labor of minors by the Police Brigade for the Protection of Minors, and the arrest of 51 suspects in 35 trafficking cases by Haiti’s border police. The same police unit also turned over 24 potential trafficking victims to the Haitian Social Welfare Agency during the reporting period.
Despite those steps, the report said Haitian adults and children continue to be “at risk for fraudulent labor recruitment and forced labor, primarily in the Dominican Republic, other Caribbean countries, South America and the United States.” The reason is the government’s failure to properly fund anti-trafficking efforts, ensure prosecution of traffickers and to pass laws banning child labor and establishing a minimum working age for children.
Among the steps Haiti’s government needs to take, according to a list of recommendations in the report: Vigorously investigate, prosecute and convict traffickers, including officials who are complicit and those responsible for domestic servitude and child sex trafficking. The government also needs to properly fund an anti-trafficking plan, including victims’ assistance and establish shelters for victims. And it needs to train police and social workers on how to spot trafficking, while educating the public about children’s rights to freedom and education.
“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 was largely dependent on partners to fund and provide services,” the report said.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the report. Calling human trafficking “a truly wicked act,” U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said Thursday that there are 25 million adults and children suffering from labor and sex trafficking worldwide.
Last year, he said, President Donald Trump restricted certain types of assistance to the governments of 15 countries that were ranked Tier 3 — the worst possible designation — in the 2019 report. Continue reading