State Department Awards Grant to Fight Human Trafficking in Haiti

  • Posted on: 21 January 2011
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
News: 

The U.S. State Deparment's Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (G/TIP) today announced a grant of $4.75 million to ten grantees to strengthen the capacity of the Haitian government and civil society to prevent and respond to human trafficking. Information about grantees and their activities follows in the official announcement below.  Background on human trafficking in Haiti and the Dominican Republic can be found in the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report.    

 

The Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (G/TIP) announces the additional award of $4.75 million to ten grantees to strengthen Haitian institutional and civil society capacity to identify and respond to human trafficking.  The funding stems from the U.S. Congress under the Supplemental Act, 2010.  The grantees include:  Catholic Relief Services, Free the Slaves, Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights, International Association for Women Judges, International Organization for Migration, SHARE Institute/Survivors Connect, University of San Francisco Center for Law and Global Justice, and the Warnath Group LLC.

 

The award of ten additional grants signifies the United States’ continued commitment to rule of law and the protection of children in Haiti as well as strengthening law enforcement responses against traffickers taking advantage of vulnerable persons in a post-disaster situation.  The grantees will work with local partners to help draft anti-trafficking legislation, support direct services for victims’ recovery, and prevent human trafficking and gender-based violence in the internally displaced persons camps.  Additionally, grantees will increase the capacity of targeted law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases and social welfare agencies to recognize human trafficking and make referrals for services.

 

As the issue of involuntary child domestic servitude under the ‘restavek’ system continues to be a high priority, grantees will also increase public awareness about it.  The 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report estimates that 225,000 children were enslaved before the earthquake.  Anti-trafficking experts were part of the emergency response and the planning to rebuild in Haiti.  Following the earthquake last January, G/TIP funded nearly $1 million in new grants to respond to the heightened risk of trafficking of Haitian children.  This included assistance to restore the lives of child trafficking victims through the provision of nutritional, medical, psychological, and educational assistance; a safe shelter; and reintegration assistance.  It also enabled the screening of children at all four designated border crossings between Haiti and the Dominican Republic – a process never before conducted at the border.  Children identified as suspected victims of trafficking are now registered, transferred into the care of the appropriate Haitian government agency and, when possible, reunified with their families.

Comments

1/25/2011
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New funds for IOM’s counter-trafficking work in Haiti will allow the organization to not only continue providing direct assistance to victims of the crime but also to carry out new research into the trafficking of minors in the sex industry in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The US$ 1.6 million from the U. S. Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (GTIP) and by United Nations Children’s Funds, UNICEF, will support a programme focusing on children drawn into the restavèk system of domestic slavery in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. This includes IOM and partners working to raise awareness of the problem in the heartland where trafficking originates, partly through a mass communications programme involving radio messages.
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Women and girls abused and exploited in the sex industry in Haiti will also be assisted. A research element focusing on identifying the main drivers of the sex trade involving Haitian and Dominican minors will provide urgently needed insight into the issue which has been largely unexplored. About 500 victims of trafficking across Hispaniola will be given direct assistance through this new funding including medical care, as well as psychosocial, nutritional, and educational support. IOM helps reintegrate victims into society with micro grants to the parents of trafficked children and adult victims to provide livelihood options that will help lessen the risks of re-trafficking due to poverty. More than 650 victims of trafficking have been directly assisted by IOM in Haiti since 2004 to regain some sort of normalcy in their lives. The Organization’s counter-trafficking activities in Haiti also include strengthening the counter-trafficking legal framework. The Haitian government has been supported in drafting a counter-trafficking bill currently before the Haitian Senate. IOM also strengthens the institutional capacity of immigration, police, judiciary and social workers through counter-trafficking and counter-smuggling training sessions.
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Since the earthquake last year, IOM’s counter-trafficking efforts in Haiti have focused primarily on providing support to internally displaced people in camps to lessen vulnerabilities to trafficking, on orphaned children in the post-earthquake phase and on restavek children who no longer have a hosting family. All IOM counter-trafficking activities involve close collaboration with Haitian governmental institutions such as the Institute of Social Well Being and Research, IBESR, and the Brigade for the Protection of Minors - a branch of the National Haitian Police responsible for minors - as well as with the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Women Affairs and Rights.
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For more information, please contact: Michela
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Macchiavello, IOM Haiti, Email: mmacchiavello@iom.int Tel: + 509 3245 5153 or
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Leonard Doyle, Email: ldoyle@iom.int Tel + 509 3702 5066

Secretary Clinton to Convene Cabinet Secretaries for the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons on February 1
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Secretary Clinton, Attorney General Holder, Secretaries Napolitano and Solis, and Ambassador CdeBaca to brief the press following Task Force Meeting Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will host the annual meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at approximately 2:00 p.m. on February 1 at the Department of State. Cabinet-level officials will participate in the meeting, including the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, and the Secretaries of Interior, Agriculture, Labor, Health & Human Services, and Homeland Security.
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An open press camera spray will take place at the beginning of the Task Force meeting in the Thomas Jefferson Room at the Department of State. Pre-set time for video cameras: 1:15 p.m. from the 23rd Street Entrance Lobby. Final access time for journalists and still photographers: 1:45 p.m. from the 23rd Street Entrance Lobby.
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At approximately 3:00 p.m., Secretary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will deliver brief remarks to the press on the U.S. Government’s new interagency initiatives to combat trafficking in persons, in the Press Briefing Room at the Department of State. Following remarks from the Secretaries, Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Luis CdeBaca will take questions from the press. This will occur in the Press Briefing Room (2209) at the Department of State.
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The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 authorized the President to establish the President’s Interagency Task Force (PITF), a cabinet-level task force to coordinate federal efforts to combat human trafficking. The PITF is chaired by the Secretary of State and meets at least once a year.
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The Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons coordinates the United States’ fight against contemporary forms of slavery. The office was created by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000. Ambassador-at-Large CdeBaca directs the Department of State’s anti-trafficking efforts in the Office of Democracy and Global Affairs, under the leadership of Under Secretary María Otero.
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Media representatives may attend the camera spray and/or press briefing upon presentation of one of the following: (1) A U.S. Government-issued identification card (Department of State, White House, Congress, Department of Defense or Foreign Press Center), (2) a media-issued photo identification card, or (3) a letter from their employer on letterhead verifying their employment as a journalist, accompanied by an official photo identification card (driver's license, passport).
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CONTACTS:
U.S. Department of State
Office of Press Relations
(202) 647-2492

2/3/2011
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Two years ago, when Winston was 12, his mother remarried. His stepfather didn't want to look after him, and Winston was left out on the street. It is not an uncommon story in Haiti. What happened to Winston afterwards was not unusual, either. Attracted by the idea of finding a better life, he crossed illegally into the neighbouring Dominican Republic. There, he says, a policeman found him on the street, took him home and raped him. Talking to an aid worker in the Haitian border town of Anse-à-Pitres, Winston says that despite his terrible experiences on the street, he cannot go back to his family. "I now live here," he insists. Anse-à-Pitres is one of many places where Winston and children like him cross illegally into the Dominican Republic in search of work and a better future. The border police check cars and people going through, but especially on market days, it is easy for children to slip through illegally in the crowds.
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UNICEF estimates that at least 2,000 Haitian children were trafficked to the Dominican Republic last year. The impact of the January 2010 earthquake has probably made the situation worse, as many families have become poorer. To help address this problem, UNICEF supports the Brigade de Protection des Mineurs – or Child Protection Brigade – of the Haitian police, which checks vehicles to prevent unaccompanied or undocumented children from crossing the border. But UNICEF and its partners must reinforce the brigade's work. "The number of police at the border is limited. They have to work on issues ranging from crime to drug smuggling, and need help to deal with the significant number of children that try and make the crossing," says UNICEF Child Protection Specialist Gallianne Palayret.
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At a playing field on the Haitian side of the border at Anse-à-Pitres, about 40 children gather twice a week to dance and sing. They are led by instructors from Heartland Alliance, a UNICEF-supported non-governmental organization. Drop-in centres like this one, which have been established at several border points in Haiti, welcome the most vulnerable youth – including street children. For a few hours, they can play and learn. They also get a hot meal. "We offer children the possibility to be a child," explains Heartland Alliance team leader Clarine Laura Johannes. "We also have designed programmes where they can at least learn how to write their names, and [we] teach them how to count. We try to teach them things that they can use in their environment, and in their future." Many of the children at the drop-in centre tell stories similar to Winston's. Several children here left their village near Anse-à-Pitres because they were hungry and thought that they could find work in the Dominican Republic. Others were put out by their parents.
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"UNICEF is really trying to help street kids at the border," says Ms. Palayret. "We are also continuing to reunify Haitian children found in the Dominican Republic with their parents in Haiti, but we always need to make sure that this is in the best interest of the child." Drop-in centres at border sites will continue to welcome street children and provide them with needed support. In this way, Winston, and other vulnerable children like him, can regain their childhood.

The Telegraph
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Children in Haiti are being sold for as little as $1.20 by traffickers taking advantage of chaos following last year's earthquake, United Nations figures show. Some youngsters end up in the care of European families unaware of their background, and others are forced into prostitution. People posing as officials from aid organisations or relatives, and unscrupulous Haitians from abroad are targeting tens of thousands of children in temporary refugee camps there. The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund is funding the Brigade de Protection des Mineurs (BPM), which works with police to monitor the camps and borders to pinpoint vulnerable children. More than a million people were displaced by last January's devastating quake and 76 per cent of the population lives on less than $2.50 a day. Parents desperate for money are tricked into believing their children will lead better lives elsewhere. Melissa Nau, a 38-year-old mother of five with learning and physical disabilities, sold four children for 50 Haitian gourdes ($1.20) each. She was living in a Port-au-Prince camp when a man she knew only as Jacques offered to buy the children. The money lasted only a few months.
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Melissa and her remaining son, Roland, 10 months, came to the attention of UNICEF and are now in a safe house. The BPM discovered that her children were given false records and illegally adopted by European families via an international agency. A UNICEF spokesman said: ''Well-meaning parents in the US and Europe have no idea that children are being kidnapped, stolen and bought from the displacement camps of Port-au-Prince.'' Francoise Moise, a BPM officer, said trafficking had always been an issue in Haiti but had grown steadily since the earthquake. He said some camps contained more than 80,000 families, making them difficult to monitor. He co-ordinates civilian volunteers patrolling them. Before the earthquake, an estimated 2000 children were kidnapped or trafficked every year. Since UNICEF started funding the BPM last April, its officers have screened 7000 children passing through the border and of those, 1400 were found not to have the right paperwork. Thirty-five people have been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping but there is no law against trafficking in Haiti.

Dominican authorities broke up a human trafficking ring on Wednesday (23 February) and rescued 27 unaccompanied Haitian children who were being forced to beg on street corners in the capital, Santo Domingo. IOM was called in by the authorities and is providing food, clothing and other non-food items for the unaccompanied minors aged between 7 and 14, as well as technical support to the authorities on protection and care for minor victims of trafficking. The Dominican Police and Immigration authorities (DGM) raided a house in Los Alcarizos, a neighbourhood outside of Santo Domingo, after four Haitian street children who were under the care of the state child care institution (CONANI) told their story to the authorities. IOM Chief of Mission in Santo Domingo Cy Winter said: "When the police closed in on the first structure, they found the children with two adults. They were in the most squalid conditions with a number of them curled up around and next to buckets of faeces. This scene was repeated in adjacent structures." In total, 74 irregular migrants were found, 44 children, including ten babies. All were taken into temporary custody while the investigators conduct initial interviews and the authorities find appropriate shelters for the unaccompanied minors.
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Sigfrido Pared, Director of the National Migration Directorate (DGM) added, "The migrants were sent out each morning to stand at busy intersections to beg for money, wash windshields or carry out other menial tasks. At the end of the day they were rounded up and whatever they made was taken from them. Ten suspected ringleaders, also irregular migrants from Haiti, were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking." The authorities are also investigating whether adults in the house and allegedly accompanying a group of 18 minors, ranging from six months to seven years, were their parents or guardians. IOM has assigned two social workers, one a Creole speaker, to assess the children and provide psychosocial support. The Organization will also carry out family tracing and where possible, family reunification, in addition to offering voluntary return assistance to those adults wishing to return to Haiti. In the past year, IOM in Haiti and the Dominican Republic have been conducting family tracing and have assisted more than 20 Haitian minors to return to their country. Some returned to their parents and others are in a shelter in the city of Port Haitien waiting for their families to be located.

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
By Gallianne Palayret
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It's eight in the morning. We are the first to arrive at the meeting point in Ouanaminthe, the most northern border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, for a patrol of non-official border points. This patrol was organised by the UNICEF-supported Haitian Police's Brigade de Protection des Mineurs. Unfortunately, these patrols do not take place every day. A limited number of agents at the border must respond to numerous emergencies and prevention of child trafficking is not always a priority. Forty-five minutes of bad road later, we stop the car and continue walking on a narrow path to one of the non-official borders between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The passage is a small and almost dry river - very easy to cross. "I know this path, traffickers use it often," says a policeman from Capotille, who is accompanying us.
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There are dozens of these non-official border crossings next to the official ones, and they cannot all be monitored 24/7. But ad hoc patrols like this one can be very effective. They unnerve traffickers by making them afraid they will be caught, which makes their business more difficult. UNICEF is working to increase the number and frequency of these patrols through its support of the Brigade de Protection des Mineurs. Later in the day, we meet two children who were found abandoned on the border a few days ago and have been rescued by a family in the village. Sadly, the family is too poor to take care of these children. Marie, 8, and her brother Francisco, 4, were travelling with a man. He became scared when a woman from the village spotted him trying to cross the border. He ran away, abandoning the two children. UNICEF supports a safe house in Ouanaminthe. The Soeurs Saint Jean, who run it, open their doors and their hearts to children who are victims of trafficking and are waiting to be reunified or placed in a residential care centre. This is where we take Marie and Francisco. Some toys, new friends, and a huge plate of food later and they have recovered their smile and the playfulness of their childhood.
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We left Ouanaminthe the next morning, not knowing exactly what we would find. Forty kilometres south of the border Ouanaminthe/Dajabon, on the Dominican side is the city of Restauracion. This is where the tarmac stops and the unpaved road begins. After driving for 10 minutes, the landscape changes; colourful Dominican houses and gardens are replaced with precarious houses with posters of the first round of the Haitian elections on the walls, and people speaking Creole. On the right side of the road lies Haiti and on the left side of it you are in the Dominican Republic - we crossed the border without even noticing it. The village of Ti Lory does not appear on my map. It seems to have been forgotten by international and national aid, but the children here are just as vulnerable. "Here people have sometimes up to 15 children. They are too poor to send them to school or even feed them," explains the mayor of Ti Lory. He insists that UNICEF should come back soon to help them offer a better life to their children.
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Between May and December of 2010, the Brigade de Protection des Mineurs stopped 1,437 children trying to cross the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in Belladere without any proper documentation. This is four to five times more than the number of children stopped at any other border point between the two countries. The village of Baptiste in the mountains 18 kilometers from Belladere is an example. Here people used to grow cocoa but with soil erosion and a sharp drop in cocoa prices, many people have been left unemployed. When we and our partners from Heartland Alliance arrive in the village to carry out a child trafficking sensitisation activity, people look at us with curiosity. They are not used to receiving visits, and a small crowd gathers around us. Facilitators begin talking about children's rights and the need for children to grow up within a family. They point out the risks children take when they cross the border.
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"Haitian boys and girls brought to the Dominican Republic often end up in prostitution, begging in the streets, or treated like domestic slaves in houses. Some are forced to pass drugs or arms," explains one facilitator named Nicolas. He adds: "Who has one or several children in Dominican Republic?" One minute of silence precedes the raising of some hands. People admit shyly that they send their children to Dominican Republic. The crowd becomes animated. People say they were not aware of the risks they were taking for their children by sending them to the other side of the border; they thought they were giving them the chance for a better life.

3/11/2011
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OUANAMINTHE: Small dirt paths dot the lush and hilly landscape outside the town of Ouanaminthe, on Haiti's north-eastern border. It is just one of a number of remote crossings child traffickers use to smuggle children into the Dominican Republic.UNICEF is working with the Haitian government and non-governmental partners to combat child trafficking. As part of this, the United Nations police force (UNPOL) recently began patrolling these unofficial borders. The scale of the problem becomes evident while accompanying the police on patrol. Hundreds of miles of border are inaccessible by car, and a lack of resources limits UNPOL's foot patrols. "It's a bigger problem than you would think," says UNPOL policeman Andre Perrin Child. "Trafficking happens every day, and the controls are almost non-existent." More than 2,000 Haitian children were trafficked into the Dominican Republic in 2009. With families thrown into disarray and many made poorer by last year's devastating earthquake, the temptation to send children to Haiti's wealthier neighbour in search of work has become even stronger.
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On patrol near the village of Capotille, UNPOL receives word that two children have been found abandoned by traffickers. A local family is looking after the children, but is too poor to care for them permanently. UNICEF Child Protection Specialist Gallianne Palayret goes with UNPOL to retrieve the children. Once there, the children – Marie, 8, and Francisco, 4, (not their real names) – hesitantly take hold of Palayret's hand and are taken to the UNICEF-supported Haitian Police's 'Brigade de Protection des Mineurs', or Child Protection Brigade. Brigade members have the authority to search vehicles and prevent children without papers from crossing the border. Marie and Francisco say they were travelling with a man who abandoned them after being rumbled trying to cross into the Dominican Republic. Palayret asks about their parents in the hope that he can reunite them.
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"From preliminary information we could gather from the children, we think their parents are illegal migrants in the Dominican Republic," she says. "What happened is that they paid someone to bring their children to the Dominican Republic to be united. " Marie and Francisco are taken to a welcome centre that provides temporary care for trafficking child victims. Run by civil society organization Soeurs Saint Jean, this is one of several care centres that receive UNICEF support. Marie and Francisco are shy at first, but encouraged by the smiles of the social worker, they soon join other children at a play table. Palayret tries to reunite children with their families whenever it is in their best interest. "Children have a right to be protected and to grow up in a nurturing environment," she says. "When this is not possible, we try to place children in longer-term residential care centres where their dignity and worth is respected and nurtured." The welcome centre will continue to provide Marie and Francisco some stability and comfort while authorities search for their parents.

United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
By Gabrielle Menezes
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TOTOY, Haiti – Most of the marketplace in the small Haitian border town of Totoy has come to a standstill. Some women are still chopping cabbages, or trying to lead mistrustful goats to stalls, but the majority has stopped to listen to the woman standing on a makeshift platform before them. She is Ellie Widlene Jasmine, one of a number of UNICEF-supported partners who travel to remote villages near the border to teach people about the dangers of sending their children with strangers to wealthier neighbour, the Dominican Republic. "What is child trafficking? It's when you have a child, and you entrust it to someone else, without the child agreeing," Ms. Jasmine, of non-governmental organization (NGO) Heartland Alliance, tells the people around her.
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She explains how parents are often unknowingly complicit in trafficking their children. Traffickers promise they will look after the children, send them to school in the Dominican Republic, and give them a better life. Ms. Jasmine says she understands it is a tempting offer. Most Haitian families have many children, and don't have the means to look after them. But the reality is that trafficking violates the rights of a child to grow up in a family environment, says Ms. Jasmine. In addition, trafficked children are exposed to dangers such as violence, prostitution, and work in harsh environments for little or no pay.
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Many of the parents in the crowd are shocked. "I never knew that this existed, and after hearing this, I would never send my child to go away with a stranger," says Marie-Joseph, who has a little girl. Marie-Joseph's sister is now looking after her daughter in Port-au-Prince, because it is easier to find better schools in the capital. "I know my sister, and speak to my child every day," she says. Although sensitization helps educate parents on the dangers of child trafficking, it can't solve the problem alone. In 2009, UNICEF estimates that at least 2,000 children were trafficked from Haiti to the Dominican Republic.
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Last year's earthquake exacerbated the problem, with most families poorer and more desperate. Now, UNICEF is supporting Child Protection Brigades at four official border crossings, which check vehicles to ensure that children without papers, and those unaccompanied by their parents, don't cross into the Dominican Republic. Although this deters some traffickers, the border between the two countries is porous. A UNICEF mission passed through miles of uncontrolled border. Away from the main road that separates the two countries, are many small paths winding through forests and hills that traffickers use with impunity. "We crossed the border from Haiti into the Dominican Republic without anyone stopping and asking for our papers," says UNICEF Child Protection Specialist Gallianne Palayret. "Imagine how easy it is for traffickers. People need to understand that everyone – parents, governments and NGOs – need to work together in order to improve the situation, and ensure that children are protected." Child trafficking is a multi-layered problem. But by sensitizing communities, supporting border patrols and working with governments, UNICEF is trying to make sure that children vulnerable to trafficking are protected at every stage.

Caribbean 360
By Gonzalo Ortiz
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The four young Haitians told legal authorities that they were offered complete scholarships to the university, but that once they reached Ecuador they were locked up in a house and made to pay 150 dollars a month for rent and board, while given the run around about the promised education.v"Deceived with the prospect of free university studies, 30 people between the ages of 18 and 23, one aged 17 and two aged 28 came from Haiti and were kept locked up in a house in the Consejo Provincial neighbourhood in the extreme north of Quito, some since November 2010," a member of the migration police present at the legal hearing on the case, who preferred to remain anonymous, told IPS. The Jesuit Service for Refugees and Migrants in Ecuador (SJRM), which found out about the situation from its contacts among Haitians living in Quito, alerted the police in February, and a Haitian family who ran the house as a de facto prison were arrested. Apparently all of the young people have relatives in the United States or Canada, which was in fact one of the requisites for selection for the supposed scholarship programme, back in Port-au-Prince. With great difficulty, their families pulled together the money to pay for the tickets for the trip that took the young people from Havana to Panama City to Quito, plus "a one-time registration fee of 300 dollars." But once they got to Quito, they were imprisoned and extorted in different ways, to get their families in North America to send the required 150 dollars a month. Although some of the Haitians were held since November, most arrived in December and January. "The hearing was held Friday April 8 in the prosecutor's office in (the northern province of) Pichincha, and the investigation is ongoing," Juan Villalobos, with the SJRM, told IPS. The case, which has received little attention in Ecuador, "is extremely serious," Jesuit priest Fernando Ponce, the director of the SJRM in Ecuador, told IPS. He said the trafficking of persons should not be treated with indifference by society. This case is only one of a number of instances of trafficking of Haitians to South America in the last three years or so.
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Edson Louidor, SJRM regional coordinator of advocacy and communication for Latin America and the Caribbean, said that in 2009, there were an estimated 75,000 Haitians in the region, but the number "has climbed fast since then." Louidor, who is himself from Haiti, told IPS that while precise figures are not available, "there are constant flows of Haitian migrants towards" South America, and the main entry points are Ecuador and Chile. According to SJRM statistics, 392 Haitians reached Chile in 2008, 477 in 2009, 820 in 2010, and 125 in January 2011 alone. As for Ecuador, 1,258 Haitian immigrants entered the country in 2009, 1,687 in 2010 and 1,112 in the first quarter of this year. However, not all of them stay. The SJRM estimates that the Haitian community in Ecuador numbers over 1,000 people. Of that total, 390 were granted an amnesty by the government of Rafael Correa after Haiti was devastated by the January 2010 earthquake that left a death toll of over 300,000.
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The 390 Haitians were given legal immigration status and were allowed to bring their families to Ecuador. Louidor explained that the destination that the Haitian immigrants are trying to reach is not Ecuador or Chile. "Their final goal has always been to reach French Guiana, and head to France or to the United States," he said. "The Haitians who came to Ecuador in 2009 went on to Venezuela through Colombia to try to reach French Guiana. But since the earthquake last year, these immigration routes have become more complicated," he said. The closure of the borders of French Guiana, an overseas region of France, and the stiffening of U.S. immigration policies have diverted the flow of migrants, to Brazil for example, a country reached by 1,200 to 2,000 Haitians who crossed the border by Amazon jungle routes, Louidor said. They travel from Ecuador to Brazil, through Iquitos and Madre de Dios in Peru's northern jungle, or through the highlands and then the Yungas forest region of Bolivia. "They also try to fly from Chile to Venezuela by plane, and use other transit countries like the Dominican Republic or Cuba," he added. An estimated two million Haitians live in the United States, between 500,000 and 750,000 in the Dominican Republic, some 400,000 in Cuba, 200,000 in Canada, 100,000 in France and another 100,000 in the French Antilles, besides the much smaller groups already mentioned in South America.
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"For that reason, remittances are still the main source of income in Haiti," which has an estimated population of 8.5 million, Loudoir said. "In 2010 remittances totalled two billion dollars – much more than the international aid for the earthquake, which amounted to 500 million dollars." Ponce said "the SJRM is concerned about the worsening of the humanitarian situation in Haiti, which is forcing people to leave the country," and about the incapacity of the Haitian government and the international community to respond to the Haitian people's needs. Louidor concurred, saying "to this you have to add the slow pace of reconstruction in Haiti, which has fuelled the activities of trafficking networks." These networks lure in young trafficking victims in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, and toughened immigration policies have driven up the risks and made victims even more vulnerable, he said.
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The SJRM has urged the governments of Latin America to provide a humanitarian response to the plight of Haitian migrants, by granting them humanitarian visas, for example. "Deportation is inhumane in a situation like the one Haiti is experiencing," Louidor said. In addition, given cases like the one that was recently discovered in Quito, "a regional network should be created to fight the trafficking of Haitians, making a distinction between perpetrators and victims, and punishing the perpetrators while protecting the victims," Ponce said. The SJRM "works with civil society organisations and other bodies that can help protect and assist trafficking victims," he noted. "In sheer numbers, the figures might look small, but it is a worrisome situation, because this is a population that is not deportable but whose immigration status is hard to regularise," the priest said. "The Ecuadorian government has given assurances that the Haitians won't be deported because of the situation their country is in. But the new immigration law does not offer viable solutions for this population group," Ponce added.
Caribbean 360
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Lack of work, limited language skills in Spanish and lack of support networks put Haitian immigrants in a much more difficult position than Peruvian or Colombian immigrants, for instance, making them more vulnerable, he said. He said the SJRM has set up a school to teach the Haitian immigrants Spanish, and is providing them with legal assistance and helping facilitate the insertion of their children into the educational system. "Ecuador must not be a xenophobic country, a country of discrimination," he said. (IPS)

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