IOM, Humanitarian Partners Assist Vulnerable Haitian Migrants
Ouanaminthe – IOM, the UN Migration Agency has opened four Border Resource Centres (BRC) at the official Haitian border crossings to aid vulnerable migrants returning from the Dominican Republic. The last of these BRCs was inaugurated in Ouanaminthe on 1 March.
The BRCs represent the only state structures that ensure the care of vulnerable migrants at the four official border crossing points. The three centers inaugurated in 2017 have already welcomed, registered and assisted 287 migrants in distress in 2018 (135 women and 152 men).
In collaboration with the Institute of Welfare and Research (IBESR) and the National Office of Migration (ONM), these centres allow for better identification, guidance and assistance to vulnerable migrants. They additionally provide spaces to foster synergies between local state, civil society and multilateral protection actors. Each BRC relies on the support of trained registration officers to manage vulnerable migrants. These migrants are often unaccompanied or separated children or victims of human trafficking.
"As women, children and vulnerable individuals are the primary victims of the inefficiencies of the border management mechanisms, this initiative responds to the urgent and clearly identified needs and reaches the most vulnerable who are exposed to all types of trafficking, including human trafficking,” said Elie Thélot, President of the National Committee Against Trafficking. “The National Committee Against Trafficking will do its best to support and strengthen the Border Resource Centers."
Since June 2015, when the registration period of the National Regularization Plan for Foreigners (NRPF) in the Dominican Republic closed, IOM and its civil society partners have registered more than 230,000 Haitian migrants that have returned to Haiti through border monitoring activities. Of these returned migrants, 4,167 are presumed to be unaccompanied or separated children and 5,807 are persons at risk of statelessness.
Migrants often arrive in precarious conditions. They are traumatized and have no access to financial resources, and are sometimes wounded. Many of these migrants have no connection or direct link to Haiti.
IOM, with the help of the Canadian Government, implemented a project to assist vulnerable children and women in the border areas between Haiti and Dominican Republic. Carlos Rojas-Arbulú, Head of the Canadian Cooperation in Haiti, said that this project “aims to improve the capacity of local actors to combat irregular migration, trafficking, and to establish referral mechanisms to facilitate access of basic services and promote the sustainable reintegration of vulnerable migrants, particularly women and girls."
The primary target beneficiaries of the project implemented by IOM at the Haitian-Dominican border are vulnerable women and minors. These beneficiaries are targeted by BRCs according to nine types of vulnerabilities, including unaccompanied children, single mothers, victims of trafficking in persons, and persons at risk of statelessness.
Chandlè is 14 years old who has lived in Mao (Dominican Republic) since he was 11. He was with his cousin when Dominican soldiers detained him on the street and asked him for papers he does not have. “They put me on a bus that sent me to the border,” he recalls. After spending 3 days in a detention center in Dajabon on the Dominican Republic side of the border, he was pre-identified as a vulnerable migrant by IOM and referred to the Border Resource Center in Ouanaminthe, Haiti.
When IOM Haiti Protection Officer Michelot Difficile welcomed Chandlè to the BRC, the boy was exhausted. “As any other vulnerable migrant that arrives at the BRC, Chandlè received a hot meal from the Haitian Red Cross and then a local protection officer from IBESR (the Haitian Institute of Welfare and Wellbeing) registered him to identify his vulnerabilities and contact his family,” explained Difficile.
While local protection actors are contacting his mother in Dominican Republic and his extended family in Haiti, Chandlè is staying at the hosting center of the Sister of St Jean in Ouanaminthe. There, along with the other kids, he has a bed to rest, food to eat, and friends to play with. “I am glad I have found a safe place to rest,” said Chandlè in perfect Spanish. “I am reassured that my family knows where I am. I was so scared. I just want to go back to home to see my mother and go back to school.”
The opening of the BRC in Ouanaminthe guarantees the presence of social partners and other non-state protection actors assisting Chandlè and other vulnerable migrants. It will also facilitate an integrated response with POLIFRONT, the Haitian Border Police.
That special unit created by the Haitian National Police in 2014 began its operations in January 2018, with the deployment of 91 specialized police officers trained on securing the border separating the cities of Ouanaminthe and Dajabòn in the North-East Department.
IOM supports the Haitian National Police in the deployment of its special border unit with logistic assistance (uniforms, vehicles, dorms and police station’s rehabilitations) and with continued training of Border Police officers in the fight against trafficking; migrants' rights; the procedures for referring vulnerable migrants; first aid; the situation of the minors at Haitian-Dominican border; psychological care; corruption challenges; and Spanish classes.
On 1 March IOM additionally organized a donation ceremony at the North-East Headquarters of the Border Police in Morne Casse (Fort-Liberté) where two Land Cruiser vehicles were handed over to POLIFRONT. Marc Justin, Director of the Border Police, and representatives from the Embassy of Canada, attended the event.
"IOM advocates for dignified and safe migration as well as integrated and efficient border management system,” said IOM Haiti Chief of Mission Fabien Sambussy. “This approach is now materializing in Ouanaminthe through the assistance offered to vulnerable migrants in the BRC, and thanks to the reinforcement of border security by the POLIFRONTs. Deployed since January 10th 2018, the POLIFRONT has already arrested 12 alleged traffickers and recovered 25 million gourdes in customs fees. IOM hopes that these two components which are essential to the management of an international border will soon be completed by the implementation of the Border ID Card."
For more information, please contact Julie Harlet in IOM Haiti, Tel: +509 4638 8051, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org