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Haiti child trafficking on rise


rhondathompson, [email protected]

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said Haitian children trafficked to the neighboring Dominican Republic has increased since the January 12 earthquake struck the impoverished, French-speaking Caribbean country.
 “Child-traffickers are likely to have used the confusion in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake to prey upon lost or separated children,” said UNICEF in a statement issued here.
“During the emergency, the border was opened – nicely opened – because it was useful for humanitarian reasons,” said UNICEF Representative in Haiti Françoise Gruloons-Ackermans.
“But we heard about a lot of movement of children,” he added. “And among them were probably children who were trafficked.”
UNICEF officials said economic pressures faced by families may allow traffickers to convince parents to give their children up for what they think will be a better life.
“There are people out there, these bandits, traffickers – they’re pretty smart to talk about it a different way, and promise something: education, a better life, meals for their kids,” said Marie-Elie Alexis, Border Project Manager with UNICEF partner Heartland Alliance, which helps the police inspectors determine whether a child is travelling with a legal parent or guardian.
Alexis said too many parents “aren’t able to sustain themselves within a community that pushes them to give away their children for a better life, supposedly.”
UNICEF said its work to prevent children from being trafficked extends beyond the visible presence of Haiti’s Brigade for the Protection of Minors (BPM) in Malpasse and the three other main crossing points with the Dominican Republic.
In addition to helping fund and train more BPM inspectors, UNICEF said it is working to strengthen the capacity of Haiti’s Ministry of Social Affairs.
It is also working with legislators to turn human trafficking legislation into law, which Haiti to date lacks.
A recent UNICEF study finds that a significant number of Haitian children are trafficked to the Dominican Republic annually.
UNICEF believes that most end up as unpaid domestic labor, beggars working for organized crime “begging cartels” or in the pornography and sex-trades. (CMC)

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