Traffickers target Haitian children

BBC News, Sunday, 11 August, 2002, 20:37 GMT 21:37 UK

Thousands of Haitian children are being smuggled into the Dominican Republic each year and forced to beg or work as manual labourers, according to a United Nations report.

About 2,500 minors, some as young as five-years-old, are brought into the country illegally, the report’s authors found.

Traffickers on either side of the shared border smuggle the youngsters into the Dominican Republic to work as farm hands, construction workers and street peddlers.

Some children are taken without parental agreement, but others are brought with their parents’ consent, researchers from the United Nations Children’s Fund and the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration found.

Traffickers reportedly earn up to 400 Haitian dollars (US$80) for each child that enters the country, which shares the island of Hispanola with Haiti.

The report—researched between November 2001 and February 2002—found that Dominican border officials were letting human traffickers cross from Haiti in exchange for payments of between 20 and 50 Dominican pesos (US$1 to US$2.50) per child.

Forced labour

Once inside the country, Haitian boys and girls are usually forced to beg on the streets, while older youths are shipped off to farms or construction sites, the report said.

Girl working in street in Dominican Republic Youngsters may be forced to work on the streets

The youngsters usually remain in the Dominican Republic for up to five months.

During their stay, they are rarely permitted to keep their earnings.

In the wake of the findings, Dominican Attorney General Virgilio Bello Rosa promised to investigate the illicit trade and track down the child smugglers.

Mr Bello also said he would urge Dominican farm owners not to employ Haitian youngsters.

About 600,000 undocumented Haitian migrants live in the Dominican Republic, according to the Dominican Foreign Ministry.

Haitians caught without documents are immediately repatriated to Haiti, where most of the 8.2 million people live in total poverty.