While addressing the February 3, 2010, President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca of the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (G/TIP) announced that the Solidarity Center would be playing an important role in helping Haitian migrant workers avert exploitative conditions in the wake of the recent earthquake.
||Haitians who find jobs as construction workers in the Dominiucan Republic are often subjected to informal and corrupt contracts that result in bonded labor and slavery-like working conditions.
Prior to the devastating earthquake, hundreds of thousands of Haitians migrated to the Dominican Republic in search of employment. Those who have found jobs, usually as undocumented and irregular construction, service, and export-agriculture workers, are often subjected to informal and corrupt contracts that result in bonded labor and slavery-like working conditions. Without official documentation from the Dominican state or employers, Haitians are forced to work for lower pay, no benefits, and under the constant threat of employer exploitation, police harassment, and deportation. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked for labor exploitation in domestic work or in sex work.
The earthquake's exacerbation of poverty will likely result in an influx of Haitian migrants to the Dominican Republic, where they could encounter precarious working situations. To prevent and counteract instances of labor exploitation and trafficking, the Solidarity Center will soon launch a two-year program funded by G/TIP. A large component of the program will involve raising Haitian migrants’ awareness of worker rights as they enter the Dominican Republic. Specifically, the Solidarity Center will produce and distribute information to newly arrived workers in Creole and Spanish. Materials will contain information on local support organizations, including unions representing workers in key sectors where workers are vulnerable to trafficking. Also included will be information on basic worker rights, as well as directions for seeking legal advice, assistance, and access to services.
The Solidarity Center will also assemble and train a team of union activists, who will provide direct outreach to Haitian workers. In addition to distributing informational material, activists will engage migrant workers, educate them about unions and worker associations, and encourage them to participate in the organizations as a network for information, worker rights protection, and a safe place for workers who are new to the country. After establishing a level of trust, activists will work with Haitian migrant workers to identify cases of labor exploitation and trafficking that they know about or have experienced. The union activists will also educate their union peers on recognizing danger signs of trafficking, paying special attention to high-risk groups such as orphaned children.
As Ambassador CdeBaca stated during the meeting, strategies and programs intended to counter labor exploitation and trafficking must be adapted to respond effectively to events, such as the earthquake in Haiti. Working with G/TIP office, the Solidarity Center has quickly modified its program to do just that and is poised to support Haiti’s growing migrant worker population.