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Street Children

Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025           

Dominican Republic

The country has long been viewed primarily as an exporter of sugar, coffee, and tobacco but in recent years the service sector has overtaken agriculture as the economy's largest employer due to growth in tourism and free trade zones. Although 2007 saw inflation around 6%, the rate grew to over 12% in 2008. High food prices, driven by the effects of consecutive tropical storms on agricultural products, and education prices were significant contributors to the jump.

Although the economy is growing at a respectable rate, high unemployment and underemployment remains an important challenge. The country suffers from marked income inequality; the poorest half of the population receives less than one-fifth of GNP, while the richest 10% enjoys nearly 40% of national income.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Description: DominicanRepub

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. Dominican women are trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation to Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Panama, Haiti, Jamaica, the Netherlands, Panama, Slovenia, Suriname, Switzerland, Turkey, and Venezuela. A significant number of women, boys, and girls are trafficked within the country for forced prostitution and domestic servitude. In some cases, parents push children into prostitution to help support the family.    Check out a later country report here or a full TIP Report here



CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in the Dominican Republic.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to verify their authenticity or to validate their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.

HELP for Victims

International Organization for Migration
688 8174
Country code: 1 809-



Haitian Children Sold as Slave Laborers and Prostitutes

Gary Younge in Santo Domingo, The Guardian, September 22, 2005

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

On market day in Dajabón, a bustling Dominican town on the Haitian border, you can pick up many bargains if you know where to look. You can haggle the price of a live chicken down to 40 pesos (72p); wrestle 10lb of macaroni from 60 to 50 pesos; and, with some discreet inquiries, buy a Haitian child for the equivalent of £54.22.

There is a thriving trade in Haitian children in the Dominican Republic, where they are mostly used for domestic service, agricultural work or prostitution. - htcp


*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Dominican Republic

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 4 June 2021]


Forced labor of adults occurred in construction, agriculture, and services. Forced labor of children also occurred (see section 7.c.).

The law applies equally to all workers regardless of nationality, but Haitian workers’ lack of documentation and uncertain legal status in the country made them more vulnerable to forced labor. NGO representatives reported many irregular Haitian laborers and citizens of Haitian descent did not exercise their rights due to fear of being fired or deported.


The porous border with Haiti allowed some Haitian children to be trafficked into the country, where they were forced into commercial sexual exploitation or forced to work in agriculture, often alongside their parents, or in domestic work, street vending, or begging (see also section 6). Children were also used in illicit activities including drug trafficking.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 23 July 2020]


Many workers in the country are employed informally, leaving them without legal protections.

The Dominican Republic remains a source, transit, and destination country for the trafficking of men, women and children for sexual exploitation and forced labor. Haitians who lack documentation and clear legal status are particularly susceptible to forced labor. The 2019 Trafficking in Persons report issued by the US State Department noted that the government had been more active in addressing trafficking, including by prosecuting and convicting more people on trafficking charges. However, it noted that victims’ services remained insufficient.

2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Dept of Labor, 2018

[accessed 17 April 2019]

[accessed 27 April 2020]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

[page 358]

Children in the Dominican Republic engage in commercial sexual exploitation, particularly in coastal, touristic locations. The porous border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic has allowed some children to be trafficked into the Dominican Republic, where they have been engaged in commercial sexual exploitation or forced to work in agriculture, domestic work, street vending, or begging. (24; 32; 1; 14; 2; 33; 3) Some children, including Haitian children and Dominican-born children of Haitian descent, work in sugarcane production often alongside their parents, and live in communities that often lack basic services, including schools. (6; 11; 34; 13; 12; 14; 15; 35) Children of undocumented migrant parents, many of Haitian descent, are particularly vulnerable to labor exploitation because many lack birth or residency documents. (34; 36; 37; 1; 28; 2; 38; 39) During the reporting period, the government extended the benefits of the National Regularization Plan to offer an additional year of legal residency status to approximately 240,000 individuals with irregular immigration status and issued birth certificates through the Central Electoral Board to more than 21,000. (40; 15; 41; 42; 43). Despite these efforts, many Dominican-born persons of Haitian descent, including children, continue to remain in undocumented status as a result of the 2013 Constitutional Tribunal Judgment and were not able to obtain legal residency documents under Law 169-14 or the National Plan to Regularize Foreigners during the reporting year. (15; 44; 45; 46; 41; 47) In addition, Haitian children who remain in the Dominican Republic after their parents have been repatriated to Haiti due to their undocumented status are more vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor. (34; 48; 49).

Dominican tour operators are questioned for human trafficking

DominicanToday, Santo Domingo, 1 August 2006

[accessed 2 February 2011]

The Justice Ministry’s People Trafficking Department  director said yesterday that it investigates several tour operators accused of organizing group trips to Europe, the Middle East and South America, but who return to the country alone.

30,000 Haitian children smuggled annually

Nov 8, 2005 -- Source: China Daily

[accessed 4 September 2014]

Around 30,000 Haitian children are illegally smuggled into the Dominican Republic every year to work as child prostitutes or be forced into other degrading occupations, UN and Organization of American States (OAS) officials said on Sunday.  In Haiti itself, children are recruited as gang members or are tortured, kidnapped, sexually and physically abused, abandoned and traded like personal property.

Ending Modern Day Slavery: U.S. Efforts To Combat Trafficking in Persons

Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, Remarks to the Northern California World Affairs Council, San Francisco, California, March 30, 2004

[accessed 17 July 2013]

The report has already been successful in encouraging countries with trafficking problems to take concrete steps. Last year, countries listed on tier three were potentially subject to sanctions requiring the loss of most non-humanitarian and non-trade-related assistance from the U.S. This could have meant the loss of U.S. military aid, educational and cultural assistance, and support from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. This approach yielded results -- a number of countries on Tier 3 acted quickly once the report came out. Belize, the Dominican Republic, Greece, Turkey, and six other nations were reassessed as Tier 2 countries as a result of their efforts after initially being placed on Tier 3.

Human Rights Watch World Report 1989: Dominican Republic

Human Rights Watch World Report 1989

[accessed 2 February 2011]

The United States has largely failed to address the serious abuses that plague Haitian sugar-cane cutters on Dominican government-operated plantations, such as forced recruitment and labor, restrictions on freedom of movement and association, inadequate living conditions and dangerous working conditions. Because it is the Dominican Republic's largest trading partner and the largest consumer of Dominican sugar, the U.S. is in a position to take the lead in demanding that the Dominican government correct these practices.

Annual jaunt offers Canadians a Third World view

Tony Gosgnach, The Interim, May 2004

[accessed 2 February 2011]

[accessed 31 January 2019]

In the Dominican Republic, volunteers tend to Haitians who work in the sugar cane fields. These labourers usually make just $1.20 (Cdn) for a 12 to 16-hour day that stretches into a six-day week.  "You're looking at modern-day slavery, that's what it is," says Petrone. "They live on the cane fields, including the children.

Debt Bondage - Slavery Around the World [PDF]

Development and Peace & Anti-Slavery International, June 1999

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 4 September 2011]

SUGAR CANE WORKERS FROM HAITI - DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Nearly 200 years after a successful revolution against slavery in their own country, Haitians are experiencing conditions akin to slavery on state plantations in the neighbouring Dominican Republic. Following many years of international complaints, the government of the Dominican Republic changed its labour code in 1992 to include protection of workers against gross exploitation. Conditions have improved somewhat on privately-owned sugar plantations, but, according to evidence from government-owned plantations, migrant workers from Haiti are still experiencing near-slavery, including debt bondage, in the Dominican Republic.

Modern Slavery - Human bondage in Africa, Asia, and the Dominican Republic

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco, Pearson Education, publishing as Infoplease, April 18, 2001

[accessed 2 February 2011]

CANE-CUTTERS IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - In the Dominican Republic, the collection of slaves for the busy harvest season is more random. The Dominican army, with the support of the State Sugar Council (known as the CEA), "hauls Haitians off public buses, arrests them in their homes or at their jobs, and delivers them to the cane fields," according to Charles Jacobs.  Some of the cane-cutters sign on to work voluntarily. When the number of workers does not meet the harvest's demand, the Dominican army is set into action. The army's captives are forced to work at gunpoint and beaten if they try to escape.

Trafficking in Women from the Dominican Republic for Sexual Exploitation June 1996 [PDF]

Migration Information Programme, Budapest 1054, Hungary, International Organization for Migration (IOM), 1995

[accessed 2 February 2011]

[accessed 31 January 2019]

THE PROBLEM - Sources in the Dominican Republic state that their country has the fourth highest number in the world of women working overseas in the sex trade, after Thailand, Brazil and the Philippines. The number of Dominican sex workers currently abroad is estimated to be more than 50,000 women.  The main concentrations of these women are to be found in Austria, Curaçao, Germany, Greece, Haiti, Italy, The Netherlands, Panama, Puerto Rico, Spain, Switzerland, Venezuela and the West Indies.  The international sex work is viewed by many sources in the country as a concrete alternative for young, impoverished women who cannot find job opportunities at home. Obviously, exploitation, violence, deception, violation of rights and deportation are the common denominators of this type of irregular migration.

Protection Project - Country Report [DOC]

The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), The Johns Hopkins University

[Last accessed 2009]

FORMS OF TRAFFICKING - Dominican women who were trafficked to Costa Rica had been offered jobs as waitresses or in Costa Rican hotels, but they were subsequently sexually exploited in Costa Rican tourist destinations and areas close to port cities.  

In February 2002, a woman from the Dominican Republic was jailed for 5 years in Costa Rica for trafficking young Dominican girls to Costa Rica, where they were sexually exploited. She and her business partner, a Dominican man, would offer young girls in the Dominican Republic a job as a waitress or in a hotel in Costa Rica. Most of the victims were between 14 and 18 years of age. The girls would then be flown from Santo Domingo to San José, where they would be transported to the tourist town of Quepos (on the Pacific coast) and to Siquirres (on the Atlantic side) where they would be sexually exploited. 

Haitian girls have been trafficked along the border with the Dominican Republic, and thousands of Haitian children reportedly have been trafficked into the Dominican Republic, where they are forced to beg in the streets or perform manual labor. 

One study revealed that the majority of Dominican female migrants in Argentina were 20 to 39 years of age and almost 90 percent had children, most of whom were left in the Dominican Republic in the care of others. The majority of women paid US$2,000 for the trip to Argentina, where they were promised work as domestic helpers for US$500 to US$800 per month. More than 50 percent had been forced into prostitution.

Human Rights Overview

Human Rights Watch

[accessed 2 February 2011]


The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 2 February 2011]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - There are reports that women and children are trafficked to, from, and within the Dominican Republic, particularly for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation.  There are also reports that poor children are trafficked internally to work as domestics.  Haitian children are reportedly trafficked to the Dominican Republic to work as prostitutes, shoe shiners, street vendors, in agriculture, and to beg in the streets.  There are also reports that young Dominican girls are trafficked to Haiti to work as prostitutes.

2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 20 April 2018

[accessed 21 March 2019]

[accessed 25 June 2019]


Haitian workers’ lack of documentation and legal status in the country made them vulnerable to forced labor. Although specific data on the problem were limited, Haitian nationals reportedly experienced forced labor in the service, construction, and agricultural sectors.


Child labor occurred primarily in the informal economy, small businesses, private households, and the agricultural sector. In particular there were reports children worked in the production of garlic, potatoes, coffee, sugarcane, tomatoes, and rice. Children often accompanied their parents to work in agricultural fields. NGOs also reported many children worked in the service sector in a number of jobs, including as domestic servants, street vendors and beggars, shoe shiners, and car window washers. The commercial sexual exploitation of children remained a problem, especially in popular tourist destinations and urban areas (see section 6, Children).

Many children who worked as domestic servants were victims of forced labor. There were credible reports that poor Haitian families arranged for Dominican families to “adopt” their children. In some cases adoptive parents reportedly did not treat the children as full family members, expecting them to work in the household or family businesses rather than attend school, which resulted in a kind of indentured servitude for children and adolescents. There were also reports of forced labor of children in street vending and begging, agriculture, construction, and moving of illicit narcotics.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 8 February 2020]

NATIONAL/RACIAL/ETHNIC MINORITIES  - The IOM estimated that approximately 650 thousand Haitian immigrants--or 7.5 percent of the country's population--lived in shantytowns or sugarcane work camps known as bateyes, which were harsh environments with limited or no electricity, usually no running water, and no adequate schooling. Although some Haitians were brought to the country specifically to work in sugarcane camps, many had no documentation. Human rights NGOs, the Catholic Church, and activists described Haitian living conditions in bateyes as modern-day slavery.

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimated that 50 thousand Dominican women worked in prostitution around the world and of these women, one third were victims of trafficking.

Women 18 to 25 years of age were at the highest risk of being trafficked. Many victims were uneducated single mothers desperate to improve the living conditions of their children.

NGOs estimated that there were hundreds of alien smuggling and trafficking rings operating within the country. According to the NGO Center for Integral Orientation and Investigation (COIN) and the IOM, trafficking organizations were typically small groups. Individuals in the country recruited the persons to be trafficked and obtained identification and travel documents. Traffickers frequently were introduced to women through friends and family; they promised some form of employment, obtained false or legitimate documents for the women, and often retained their passports once in the destination country. Trafficking organizations reportedly received $5 thousand to $8 thousand (150 thousand pesos to 240 thousand pesos) for trafficking a woman for purposes of prostitution.

Human Rights Reports » 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, February 23, 2000

[accessed 17 July 2013]

[accessed 27 April 2020]

NATIONAL/RACIAL/ETHNIC MINORITIES - Although the Government has largely eliminated the use of children for cutting sugar cane, poor Haitian and Dominican parents sometimes arrange for Dominican families to "adopt" and employ their children. The adopting parents can simply register a child of any age as their own. In exchange, the parents receive monetary payment or a supply of clothes and food. They believe that this ensures their children a more promising future. In many cases, adoptive parents do not treat the adoptees as full family members and expect them to work in the households or family businesses rather than attend school. The effect is a kind of bondage, at least until the young person reaches his majority. There were reports that Haitian girls between the ages of 10 and 14 were the most sought after, especially in border areas.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery – Dominican Republic",, [accessed <date>]