About Haiti

Prior to the earthquake, Haiti has been a country of origin for both labor and sex trafficking.  There are three serious forms of human trafficking in Haiti:  first, the restavek phenomenon in which children are at high risk for both labor trafficking and sexual exploitation, child sex tourism, and child sex trafficking;[1] second, persons compelled by economic pressures to emigrate to the Dominican Republic in search of work. Many of the Haitians working in the “Bateyes,” the sugar plantations of the Dominican Republic, are trapped in conditions of slavery. If they escape the Bateyes, they are often employed in the Dominican construction sector, a sector where Haitians are very proficient (according to research by the Fondation Espoir); third, and perhaps of greatest concern is the cross migration of children (from Haiti into the Dominican Republic, from the DR into Haiti) for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Haitian children are exploited in the prosperous tourist and resort industries of the Dominican coasts; the Dominican children (and internally trafficked Haitian children) are exploited in brothels catering to U.N. peacekeepers and other foreign nationals. A 2002 IOM/UNICEF study found that annually more than 2,000 children, mainly from three geographical departments of Haiti (North, North-east and North-west), are trafficked to the Dominican Republic.  Many of them are exploited for the purposes of both labor and commercial sex. There is also anecdotal evidence of the sale of children by orphanages, either into illegal (and potentially exploitative) adoptions or, more gruesomely, for organ retrieval or child prostitution. The problem was serious in Haiti before the earthquake because of the overall lack of basic human rights, a weak criminal justice infrastructure, and generalized societal violence.  The potential for exacerbation of this situation following the earthquake heightens the urgency.

[1] “Restaveks” (derived from the Creole for “stay with”) are children of poor families who are sent to work in households of greater means. These children are at high risk for exploitation, both for labor and sexual purposes. This population of potential victims has been estimated by UNICEF and Save the Children to range between 176,000 and 300,000.


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