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Haiti: Combatting Human Trafficking of Children

The January 12th, 2010, earthquake in Haiti separated families and left thousands of children displaced throughout the country. Many children crossed the border with adults, and due to the earthquake's destruction of government buildings and the official documents stored within, border authorities permitted people to exit Haiti without any form of identification. The situation became politically charged and required heightened sensitivity following an attempt by a group of American missionaries to smuggle 33 children out of Haiti without having any legal guardianship of the children.

These challenges endanger children and threaten to permanently separate families seeking to reunify. Separated children who are taken across the border without identification by well-meaning relatives may lose the chance to reunify with their families if they are not identified and registered. In the case of orphaned children who are being transported across the border by adults without legal guardianship, the children are at high risk for exploitation and/or abuse.

Impact

To prevent the cross-border trafficking of Haitian children, HAI provided comprehensive support and services, including interviewing and registering children, parents, and potential traffickers at key border posts to identify whether a trafficking threat exists; training government officials in appropriate methods for identifying and working with children; referring all trafficking threats to government officials in the Child Protection Brigade and the Interagency Separated Children Program; promoting coordination between all agencies involved in preventing child trafficking at the border areas; and registering children being repatriated back to Haiti from the Dominican Republic who sought to reunite with family members.

Heartland Alliance International sent teams of trained Child Protection Officers to principal Haitian border crossings to assist the Government of Haiti's (GoH) Child Protection Brigades in identifying children who are at risk of becoming child trafficking victims. These professionals improve the safety of children by enhancing the capacity of government officers to safely and appropriately deal with separated children they identify at border posts.

Additionally, HAI's Child Protection Officers provided guidance on child interviewing techniques, as well as assessing children's needs, and ensuring their temporary placement into GoH- and UNICEF-vetted interim care facilities in Haiti. HAI provided follow-up assessments of all children placed into interim care facilities to ensure that families are located and subsequently reunified whenever possible.