Assistance for Children Victims of Human Trafficking in Haiti

Date Publish: 
12/03/06
Region-Country: 
Haiti / America

After the death of his father, Daniel was torn from his sobbing
mother to work in Port-au-Prince to alleviate the family's extreme
poverty. In one of the capital's many shantytowns that suffer from
neglected infrastructure and income-generation needs, a poor "host
family" recruited Daniel as unremunerated domestic labor to fetch
water from distant distribution points, among other tasks.

Ten-year-old Daniel is one of 71 children victims of trafficking
who have been assisted by IOM and its partners to return home. He
recently told IOM: "I want to go back home because there, I did not
have any scars on my skin." He was referring to a severe burn on
his body inflicted by his employer for being disobedient.

Daniel says he felt "not human" when preparing the children's
uniforms and lunches while being denied an education himself.
Despite being regularly humiliated, abused and under-fed, Daniel
did not attempt to return home alone lest he be forced to join the
street children.

This IOM project, launched in March 2005, provides return and
reintegration assistance, which also includes school tuition, books
and uniforms for one year and micro-credits, designed to improve
the living conditions of the families while providing them with
financial means to care for their children, in order to prevent
re-trafficking.

Although Haiti is a source, transit and destination country for
human trafficking, internal trafficking of children for domestic
labour remains its major form of trafficking. Children from rural
areas are placed with urban families to carry out domestic work in
exchange for promises of education and future economic
opportunities. However, these promises are rarely honoured.
Instead, the children are forced to work long hours in appalling
conditions, and do not receive compensation for their work and are
often mistreated.

Research conducted by Save the Children and UNICEF in 2002
estimated the number of children victims of Haiti's internal
trafficking to be between 176,000 and 300,000. In general, the
children are between 5 and 17 years old, and nearly 60% of them are
girls.

Other forms of human trafficking in Haiti include the
trafficking of children to the Dominican Republic. A 2002
IOM/UNICEF study found that, each year, more than 2,000 children,
mainly from three geographical departments of Haiti (North,
North-east and North-west), are trafficked to the Dominican
Republic to work as beggars or in the agriculture and construction
sectors.

There are also reports of child prostitution in Port-au-Prince;
the use of children by armed groups, 600 in one commune according
to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti; international adoptions
for illicit ends, 1,000 children adopted each year by foreigners,
some of whom may be at risk of being trafficked; the exploitation
of Haitian workers who cross the border to work in the sugarcane
harvest in the Dominican Republic; and Dominican and Haitian women
trafficked on both sides of the island for forced prostitution.

To help the children recover from their physical and
psychological scars, the project also provides medical and
psychological assistance prior to their return home. Last year, 30
children received medical care at one of the local health centers
working with the IOM partner, Aide á l'Enfance en
Domesticité.

The project is now expanding to include vocational training and
micro-enterprise assistance to older children and longer-term
educational assistance by linking with institutions providing
education scholarships.

To prevent re-trafficking and to strengthen the project's return
and reintegration assistance, the children's progress is
continually monitored in order to identify challenges and make
necessary adjustments to the assistance.

As part of its awareness-raising and capacity building efforts,
the IOM project has produced and distributed an information
brochure, and has organized three counter-trafficking training
seminars.

As a member of the Collectif, an informal working group
established in 2005 composed of international and national actors
active in the field, IOM works to increase the Government's
awareness of the trafficking phenomenon and to help identify
methods to combat it. One of the main activities of the group is
advocating for counter-trafficking legislation, presently lacking
in Haiti, and the ratification of the UN Convention against
Transnational Organized Crime and of other international
instruments related to children's rights.

The Return and Reintegrate Victims of Child Trafficking
programme is funded by the US State Department's Bureau of
Population, Refugees and Migration.

For more information contact:

Margarett Lubin

IOM Haiti

Tel: 244-1218/2441246

E-mail: "mailto:mlubin@iom.int">mlubin@iom.int

© IOM 2006 (Photo: Vantz Brutus)