Assistance for Children Victims of Human Trafficking in Haiti

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: mlubin@iom.int