Haitian child victims of trafficking in Dominican Republic receive assistance
( IOM ) - IOM is currently assisting the authorities in the Dominican Republic with identifying and assessing a group of 54 unaccompanied Haitian minors who are victims of trafficking; the organization is also providing food, clothing, and non-food items and will carry out family tracing and family reunification if necessary.
The group was rescued by the Dominican authorities on 16 th of May, when the police broke up a human trafficking ring which was exploiting the children by forcing them to beg on street corners in the capital, Santo Domingo.
Under the coordination of the Dominican Attorney General's Office, a National Police (NP) and General Directorate of Migration (DGM) team raided over twenty houses in Los Alcarrizos, a neighbourhood outside Santo Domingo, after an exhaustive eight month investigation.
The raids identified 109 irregular migrants, of whom 54 were children, including 16 aged 3 or younger. The whole group were taken into temporary custody while investigators conduct initial interviews and the authorities find appropriate shelters for the unaccompanied minors.
"This is the most significant large-scale coordinated effort to rescue child victims of trafficking in the Dominican Republic to date. It involved a multi-agency investigation over many months and a joint response in support of the victims," said IOM Chief of Mission Cy Winter.
IOM in the Dominican Republic is part of an inter-agency response team to combat trafficking. It provides support to CONANI, the country's lead agency for child affairs, with interpretation, logistics and psycho-social support.
IOM counter trafficking staff delivered a series of training workshops to key Dominican officials involved in the shelter and referral process before the raids. It has now assigned Creole-speaking community liaison officers to assess the children and provide psycho-social support.
IOM's assistance to victims of trafficking in the Dominican Republic is funded by the US State Department's Office to Combat and Monitor Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP) and Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM).
The US funding has allowed IOM to establish referral processes and enables it to provide direct assistance to victims that cannot be covered by DR authorities. It also enables IOM to provide reintegration support after best interest determination and family tracing procedures.
In the past three years IOM offices in Haiti and the Dominican Republic have traced families and helped over 20 Haitian children to return to their country. Some have returned to their parents - others are in a shelter in the city of Cap Haitien, still waiting to be reunited with their families.
A recent survey by the Dominican National Office of Statistics indicates there are some 458,000 Haitian migrants in the Dominican Republic.