Saturday 25 February 2017

Children in Haiti being sold for as little as €1

Caroline Gammell in Haiti

Children in Haiti are being sold for as little as 90c to traffickers taking advantage of chaos following last year's earthquake, United Nations figures show.

Some youngsters are ending up in the care of European families unaware of their background, while others are being forced into prostitution.

People posing as officials from aid organisations or relatives and unscrupulous Haitians from abroad are targeting tens of thousands of children in temporary refugee camps there.

The charity Unicef is funding the Brigade de Protection des Mineurs (BPM), which works with police to monitor the camps and borders to pinpoint vulnerable children.

More than a million people were displaced by last January's devastating quake and 76pc of the population lives on less than €2 a day. Parents desperate for money are tricked into believing their children will lead better lives elsewhere.

Melissa Nau, a 38-year-old mother of five who suffers from learning and physical disabilities, sold four children for 50 Haitian gourdes (90c) each. Unable to work, she was living in the Tabarissa camp in Port au Prince when a man she knew only as Jacques offered to buy the children, aged between four and eight. The money lasted just a few months.

Melissa and her remaining son Roland, 10 months, came to the attention of Unicef and are now in a safe house.

The BPM discovered that her children were given false records and illegally adopted by European families via an international agency.

A Unicef spokesman said: "Well-meaning parents in the US and Europe have no idea that children are being kidnapped, stolen and bought from the displacement camps of Port au Prince."

Francoise Moise, a BPM officer, said trafficking had always been an issue in Haiti but had grown steadily in the last year. "Since the earthquake in 2010, rates of trafficking into the Dominican Republic have increased incredibly," he said.

Mr Moise (46), said some camps contained more than 80,000 families, making them difficult to monitor.

Documents

"Most of the children that are trafficked into the Dominican Republic have fallen victims of prostitution or these children are adopted illegally," he said.

Part of the BPM's work involves stopping vehicles at the border and checking the travel documents of anyone aged under 18 but they are unable to verify whether documents have been faked.

Before the earthquake, an estimated 2,000 children were kidnapped or trafficked every year. Since Unicef started funding the BPM last April, its officers have screened 7,000 children passing through the border and of those, 1,400 were found not to have the right paperwork.

Thirty-five people have been arrested on suspicion of offences relating to kidnapping but under current legislation, there is no law against trafficking in Haiti. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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