Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Haiti: Officials Rescue and Return to Their Parents 50 Trafficked Children; 100 Others Await Rescue

At the request of their parents and with the assistance of several non-governmental organizations , a group of 47 (some reports say 48) children, ages 2 through 7, were recently rescued from an illegal adoption center in Port-au-Prince, where they were reportedly awaiting international adoption, and returned to their parents. According to press reports, another 100 children are awaiting rescue from the same center.

These children were originally taken to the illegal center in Port-au-Prince after their impoverished parents, all from "major trafficking source communities," in southwest Haiti, had been tricked into "giving up" their children with promises of a better life--first, a better life for the children taken for adoption and,secondly, through promised help in setting up small businesses for their parents, a better life for the families and siblings left behind.

Not surprisingly, traffickers subsequently failed to follow through on their promises to parents. Not only did the parents not receive the help they had been promised in setting up businesses, but more seriously, the same parents found that their children who had been taken for international adoption and who were living at the illegal adoption center, were being seriously neglected.

"After learning that they had been misled by the traffickers and of the inhumane conditions in which their children were being kept at the centre, parents approached a local NGO, Initiative Departementale contre la Traite et le Traffic des Enfants (IDETTE) to denounce the owner of the centre and to ask for the return of their children. With the help of other NGO's, the parents filed a complaint against the owner of the centre in 2006 and campaigned for the return of their children."
The Haitian government, working through the Institute for Social Well-Being (IBERS--the Haitian government's agency to supervise adoptions), the Brigade of the Protection of Minors, the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Collectif contre la Traite et le Trafic de Personnes, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and several other local NGO's, effected the eventual rescue and return of the children.

After rescue, the organizations released more details about the appalling conditions under which the children had been kept at the illegal adoption center:

"The 48 rescued last week were found in conditions of extreme neglect by officials from Haiti's Social Well-Being and Research Institute (IBERS by its French acronym), the government agency that oversees legal adoption in the country. Most were suffering from malnutrition, severe diarrhea, dehydration, and skin diseases.

Many parents had difficulties recognizing their children upon their return home. "He was in such a state of neglect, it's as if I will need to bury my child," said a father after seeing the condition of his child.

One government official revealed that during an unannounced visit made a few days before the rescue, the children were hidden in the basement, frightened and filthy. Neighbours have confirmed that they often heard children crying.

In a statement to a local radio station, one of the presumed traffickers said that when the imminent rescue of the children was announced, those working at the creche restricted the amount of food and other basic care normally given to the children.

[Why spend their money on children who were not going to be able to be sold for adoption?]

Ten of the rescued children remain hospitalized, receiving treatment for malnutrition and contagious dermatological conditions. Most of the children will require long-term psychological support to overcome the trauma of the physical abuse and the separation from their families for periods ranging from many months to two years. Some children are further distressed by the separation from their siblings; 11 brothers and sisters of the rescued children are still at the creche."
News reports say that lack of funds are "hampering the immediate rescue of the remaining children." It is not immediately apparent from news reports exactly what the connection between lack of funds and inability to rescue the children is, but one could speculate that money is needed for efforts to identify the remaining children, to locate their first families, and to finance the judicial proceedings which would allow the children to be freed.

The organizations are providing care that goes beyond simply freeing the children and handing them back to their impoverished parents.

"IOM is also providing financial support for the immediate medical and psychological care of the children as well as reintegration assistance for both the children and their parents. This includes the payment of educational fees of school-aged children for one year while parents will be given micro-grants and training to set up small businesses to ease financial worries during the initial period of return."
According to press reports, some of the funding for these efforts and others aimed at protecting children and their parents from future trafficking schemes, has come from the Canadian government and also United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERG).

Beyond the rescue of these approximately 150 children, NGO's hope to address the situation which caused these children to be taken from their families in the first place:

"Funds would also be used to raise awareness of human trafficking in areas like Jeremie [the area from which these children came, and a favorite haunt of child traffickers], an impoverished, isolated, and desolate district in the southwest of Haiti and which is particularly affected by the problem. Many families have between six and eight children and the parents are often unable to meet the most basic needs such as food, health care, and education.

If urgent sensitization measures are not carried out in the region, there is a risk that destitute parents will continue to give their children away and these ruthless traffickers will continue to thrive in Haiti's more destitute areas, says Geslet Bordes, manager of International Organization for Migration's (IOM's) child trafficking program in Haiti."
This situation is not an isolated one. Hoping to cash in on Western demand for children, illegal adoption centers abound in Haiti:

"Pandya [an official with the International Organization for Migration, a human rights organization that tracks trafficking] said that according to the government [officials charged with overseeing adoptions in Haiti], many bogus centres are involved in the trafficking of children for international adoptions.

'However, a lack of resources means the government agency is currently unable to investigate all centres and to close down all those involved in child trafficking.'"
Where money for enforcement is lacking, child traffickers, whether for purposes of sex, slavery, or adoption, abound.

According to IOM, adoption trafficking is a problem because of "loopholes in the country's 1974 adoption laws."

"They offer children to rich Haitians and foreigners in return for processing fees reaching US $10,000."
Since 2005, the Geneva based organization International Organization for Migration (IOM) with funding from the US State Department's Bureau of Population, Refuges, and Migration, "has assisted with the return and re-integration" of 121 child trafficking victims.

Anyone who wishes to make a contribution to the effort to reintegrate these child victims with their families and provide for hope for the families' future through helping them get established in business or providing an education for their children, should contact IOM by clicking on the link below. Please remember that readers are responsible for evaluating a charity before contributing to it. Google to find sites that help you evaluate charities.


International Organization for Migration

Trafficked Children Returned Home, Press Briefing Notes, International Organization for Migration, Trafficked Children Returned Home, 10 August 2007

Haitian children saved from rogue adoption center, migration group says, International Herald Tribune, 10 August 2007

Haiti children leave “rogue” adoption centre, Reuters Alertnet, 10 August 2007

Trafficked Haitian Children Found, Returned Home, Hardbeat News, 13 August 2007

100 Children Remain in Hands of Traffickers in Haiti, The Anatolian Times, 17 August 2007

Press Release, International Organization for Migration, Ordeal of Children Victims of Trafficking for International Adoption Revealed, 17 August 2007

1 comment:

  1. Stunning, haunting horrible story. I referenced it in a post on my blog:

    Adoption Tail Wags Dog