IOM Releases Video on Child Trafficking and Abuse in Haiti
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is active in Haiti in a number of different areas. One if its priorities is the prevention of child abuse. In advance of a forum in Vienna next week organized by the UN Global Initiative to Fight Trafficking (UNGIFT), IOM releasd a video to raise awareness of the plight of an estimated 173,000 Haitian children internally trafficked for domestic servitude, known as Restaveks.
We've written about the restavek situation before. It is widespread and abuse is common. It happens in Haiti and it has been documented in Miami and other cities in the United States. Discussions on how to resolve the situation are often heated. We all can agree there are no easy solutions, but that does not excuse us from seeking one.
Much of the information following I have summarized directly from the IOM press release concerning the release of the video. For those not familiar with the Restavek System, the release explains that it is when "Parents unable to care for their children send them to relatives or strangers living in urban areas supposedly to receive care and education in exchange for housework. But the reality is a life of hardship and abuse; enslaved by their so called “hosts”, the children seldom attend school."
IOM notes that in the event that children escape, they are referred to the Haitian Social Welfare Institute or IBESR (Institut pour le bien-être social et la recherche), and are then taken to centers where they are cared for until their biological families can be found. IOM provides financial and technical support to several organizations to respond. The Center for Action and Development or CAD (Centre d’action pour le développement) and L’Escale in Port au Princeprovide shelter, food, medical and psychosocial support for these children until their parents can be found and conditions are in place for the children to return to their families.
According to Geslet Bordes, the Manager of IOM’s Counter Trafficking in Children Program in Haiti, the Restavek system is a modern form of slavery and a gross violation of the most fundamental human rights. He goes on to note that when restaveks get older and are deemed by their “hosts” as no longer manageable, they run the risk of ending up on the streets where the girls often work as servants or are forced into prostitution and the boys join the ranks of petty criminals.
IOM states that since 2005, it has assisted more than 300 Restavek children to reunite with their families. Fifty others have been identified and 30 are currently under rehabilitation in local shelters until enough information is obtained to identify their hometowns and families. Twelve former Restaveks youth have also benefited from IOM’s program through three month vocational training and funding for setting up of shoemaking, baking and dressmaking and other small businesses.
The press release notes another human rights abuse - deceptive practices that lead destitute parents in the country’s poorest regions to place their children with orphanages in the capital.
As Bordes put it: “The trafficker says to the parent, you have a lot of children, you have to give one or two because you are going to receive money to have a small business, you are going to visit the U.S. , and you have to give a chance to your child. So, if you are a parent you are going to think, you’re going to look at your situation, and you’re going to make the decision to give your children.”
Last August, IOM and the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) returned 48 small children that had been taken from Jeremie and were being kept in an orphanage in Port-au-Prince where they were found in a state of neglect. Their parents, too poor to cater for their needs, were deceived in sending them away in the belief that their children would be provided with food and education, and would soon return to them. However many had already been included in international adoption procedures.
With IOM support, the Haitian government has taken steps to draft legislation addressing the specific concerns of Haiti ’s human trafficking context. Numerous international donors support these efforts.
Take a moment to download the video press release as well. IOM does take donations which can be made directly through its website. For more information please contact Judy Dacruz or Geslet Bordes, IOM Haiti , Tel: +509 245 51 53, email: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
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