Police in the Dominican Republic have broken up a criminal operation that smuggled in children from Haiti then forced them to beg on the streets, highlighting a common crime facilitated by poverty and corruption.
Police rescued 58 children who had been illegally trafficked into the Dominican Republic and then forced into begging on the streets of capital city Santa Domingo, reported El Diario.
Over twenty people were arrested and two Haitian men have so far been charged. Some of the other Haitians arrested were not directly linked to the operation and will be released or deported, according to their immigration status, according to El Nacional.
Investigators accused the detained suspects arrested of maltreating the children, including beating them with electrical cables if they did not bring in enough money.
The eight-month operation targeting the ring was carried out by Dominican security forces working alongside the US Imigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).
InSight Crime Analysis
Haiti is a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking, according to the US State Department. The country's devastating poverty, institutional weakness, and rampant corruption make it fertile territory for traffickers. Contributing to the problem is the fact that Haiti has no set of laws that prohibits human trafficking.
With only a porous border separating the two countries, the Dominican Republic is a common destination for trafficking victims from Haiti. After the 2010 earthquake that destroyed Haiti's infrastructure and left 230,000 people dead, the UN reported a significant rise in trafficking between Haiti and its eastern neighbor. Many victims ended up the Dominican Republic as traffickers took advantage of the chaos of thousands of Haitian refugees flooding across the border.
The US State Department notes that Haitian children often cross the border illegally into the Dominican Republic, accompanied by adults who bribe their way across. While many of these are looking to be reunited with parents working in the Dominican Republic, others are forced into organized begging rings or domestic servitude.