HomeNewsAnalysisVideo - UN: Human Trafficking in Haiti Worse Since Quake
ANALYSIS

Video - UN: Human Trafficking in Haiti Worse Since Quake

CARIBBEAN / 6 APR 2011 BY STEVEN DUDLEY EN

The United Nations mission in Haiti told Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a memo that it had seen a rise in child trafficking in Haiti since last year's devastating earthquake.

The memo, which was sent from the mission known by its acronym MINUSTAH and obtained by the Spanish news agency EFE, said that 2,509 children were stopped without proper documentation in Port au Prince's airport and along the border with the Dominican Republic in 2010. Of those, Haitian authorities said that 459 were victims of traffickers.

The UN mission says it has seen a "strong increase" in the number of child trafficking cases, especially to neighboring countries such as the Dominican Republic, where they are sold into slavery and prostitution. It does not give figures, however, on exactly how much this activity has grown.

Poverty, endemic corruption, and lawlessness are the norm in what is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. The void of authority has made Haiti a key transit point for drugs going to the United States, and, to a lesser extent, Europe, as well as a haven for myriad other criminal activities including human smuggling, human trafficking, and illegal adoptions.

Things have gotten worse since the earthquake in January 2010, which left entire cities in rubble, the country's little infrastructure in tatters, and over 230,000 dead.

What was already a difficult place to live has also become a nearly impossible place to police. To cite one example, nearly 6,000 prisoners escaped from a maximum security prison following the quake, only eight percent of whom have been recaptured, according to the MINUSTAH memo.

The UN mission adds that it's worried about security forces' connections to organized crime and noted that the murder rate "did not stop going up" in 2009 to 2010, according to EFE's account, without specifying by how much or where homicides were increasing.

Amidst the chaos are thousands of children. The United States Department of State estimates that close to half a million were displaced by the quake, adding to a culture of people inured to the death and destruction around them.

The State Department qualifies Haiti as a "special case" in matters of human trafficking, the highest alarm bell it can sound. And in its 2010 report on human trafficking, it says most of those trafficked are "restaveks," a term used for domestic child servants who form part of an extended family.

"Restaveks are treated differently from other non-biological children living in households," the State Department says. "In addition to involuntary servitude, restaveks are particularly vulnerable to beatings, sexual assaults and other abuses by family members in the homes in which they are residing."

Haiti has created a special Brigade for the Protection of Minors, but this has done little to curb trafficking since the brigade does not pursue forced labor or forced prostitution cases because there is no existing law against these activities, the State Department adds. It noted an increase in the number of restaveks found in shelters since the quake.

The UN's report may indicate that other children are also being bought and sold in large numbers on the black market, as desperate, entrepreneurial parents seek to lower their burden. Much of this market, it appears, is in the Dominican Republic, which shares the Hispaniola Island with Haiti.

A key crossing point, according to the UN, is Belladere, which is close to the border with the Dominican Republic. The UN is sponsoring education and outreach programs in the town, where Gallianne Palayret, a child protection specialist, produced the video below.

There, Haitian authorities turned back 1,437 children without proper identification or paperwork between May and December 2010, according to an informative blog by Palayret. (Read blog here.)

The Dominican Republic has a similarly appalling record on human trafficking. The State Department qualifies it as a "Tier 3" nation, the highest alarm bell it can sound for a country that is not a "Special Case" like Haiti.

Haitians are trafficked to work on Dominican sugar plantations, in brothels and other forced servitude, the State Department says.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CARIBBEAN / 23 SEP 2017

A series of high-impact hurricanes in the Caribbean and earthquakes in Mexico have caused serious devastation, serving as a…

GENDER AND CRIME / 26 FEB 2013

A newspaper's undercover investigation reveals the extent of sex trafficking in Peru, visiting a gold mining town where up to…

ARGENTINA / 5 MAR 2020

In a year marked by political and criminal turmoil, Latin American capitals did not escape the effects of the violence,…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…