– More than 50 frontline officials from relevant Dominican Government agencies have begun a four-day training to become Child Protection Officers as part of ongoing efforts to improve the inter-agency approach to the protection of child migrants and victims of trafficking.
As a follow up to the training of Child Protection Officers (OPIs by the Spanish acronym) in fall of 2010, the General Directorate of Migration (DGM) and IOM have coordinated with the Government of Mexico to put into practice the Mexican model for the protection of child migrants in the Dominican Republic.
This year’s OPI training will concentrate on creating a corps of child protection officers within the three government agencies that have the greatest degree of contact with migrant children: the General Directorate of Migration (DGM), the National Council for Children and Adolescents (CONANI) and the Specialized Border Security Corps (CESFRONT).
The majority of the participants come from the four main border crossing points with Haiti (Dajabón, Elias Piña, Jimaní and Pedernales), and have been identified by their superiors as frontline officers capable of putting into practice the OPI methodology.
The OPI training contains modules on emotional literacy, communication with children and adolescents, gender considerations, care for victims of abuse, detection of victims of trafficking and persons in need of international protection, and the rights of children.
Additional workshops have been included in the course to examine the Mexican child protection model, to share the challenges faced by the Dominican authorities in responding to the phenomena of child migration and child victims of trafficking, and the development of inter-agencies procedures in order to improve the State response.
“Our counterparts in the Dominican Government have maintained constant pressure to ensure the wellbeing of migrant children in the country,” explains IOM Santo Domingo Chief of Mission Cy Winter. “The authorities face many challenges, providing medical and social services, investigating crimes against children, and finding durable migration solutions. Many of these challenges have been dealt with successfully by the participating Mexican officials. The OPI model is a vital piece of the strategy.”
Following the 12 January earthquake in Haiti, CONANI oversaw assistance provided to the more than 400 unaccompanied migrant children displaced by the earthquake in need of protection from the Dominican State.
Of the 234 children currently in the care of CONANI’s temporary shelters, 45 are Haitian nationals.
In 2011 IOM has worked with DGM, CONANI and the prosecution to provide family tracing, return and reintegration assistance to 23 Haitian child victims of trafficking, including a large group of children trafficked for forced begging rescued by the DGM in a February 2011 raid.
These experiences, as well as the continued arrival of migrant children into the Dominican territory have led IOM and the Dominican authorities to identify the need for an inter-agency approach to child protection, which will be greatly aided by the strengthening of the OPI corps.
This meeting has been made possible though support from the U.S. Department of State and the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.