Posted by: dominicanoutreach | July 28, 2009

Free Legal Aid?

The following is a case study we looked at in our workshop the other day. What say you?

Trafficking is a crime against the individual. Smuggling is a crime against the State. When an officer of the law or social worker is faced with the following case:

Carlita has three children working for her in the house and begging and selling candy in the streets of San Marcos and Puerto Plata.. The children are from Haiti and have no identity papers. The children bring home about 100 pesos a day. When asked what she does with the money she says that she uses it to send her child to a private school. When asked if the children working for her as domestic labor go to school she tells us that they do not.

What should the officer do? Charge the woman with human trafficking or arrest the children as illegal migrants and send them back to Haiti? In a recent training of local police in a workshop on Human Trafficking 100% of the police said emphatically “arrest the children and send them back to Haiti.” They saw no reason to arrest the woman. It was not a human trafficking issue but an issue of illegal economic migration.

In talking to other interested stakeholders it emerged that the children should have some rights. At the very least the State should have the right to sue the woman on behalf of the children and who was employing them for domestic labor. Now this would be an interesting case where the State (CONANI) would be defending the rights of children who are not citizens of the Dominican Republic. Is the State, the Dominican Republic, obligated as a signatory of international treaty for the rights of all children within their territory, citizens or not, to defend the rights of these children?

An outcome of the workshop is that legal services should be made available to victims of human trafficking to help sort out issues like this. For adults in the sex trafficking trade we have interviewed, they would like to know their rights but feel they do not have access to legal counsel. Would it not be interesting to set up a free legal aid office in Puerto Plata or Sosua and test some of these issues?



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