Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Efforts to protect Haitians from exploitation must continue

By Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald

PORT-AU-PRINCE — A quake-struck Haiti may still be recovering from the earthquake, but that doesn’t mean efforts to protect children and adults from exploitation should stop.

That was the message from the U.S. human-trafficking czar, Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, as he visited Haiti Wednesday in hopes of keeping the spotlight on the need to protect Haitians from trafficking.

CdeBaca met with Haitian officials from the ministry of social affairs as well as Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. He also visited Foyer Lakay, an all-boys shelter and a safe space for kids run by Save the Children.

During a tour of the shelter, CdeBaca said he was “very impressed” with the facility and how street kids — who were once exploited — are now learning vocational skills such as sewing and electrical work.

Later, he watched with delight as 3-year olds sang and danced in a circle underneath a tent not far from congested downtown. At the entrance of the safe space were pieces of yellow paper illustrating children’s rights.

CdeBaca said while a lot of attention has been shed on the controversial and accepted practice of child servitude here known as restavek, he wanted to focus the issue of human trafficking, as outlined in the State Department’s annual Trafficking in Person’s report.

“Child slavery especially restaveks is a big problem, but it’s not the only problem,” he said. For example, Haitian adults are at times held in servitude for prostitution,

Prior to the Jan. 12 earthquake, Haiti had signed a UN protocol to protect persons from trafficking and the country was working on making it illegal.

The fight needs to continue, he said.

“The fact that Haiti ratified the UN protocol that protects people from all forms of modern slavery was a big step, an encouraging step,” he said. “Now the hard work needs to start: rescuing victims and prosecuting abusive bosses.”

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