Haiti Earthquake: Children Sold By Traffickers For As Little as 76 pence Each ($1.20)
Children in Haiti are being sold for as little as 76 pence each (pennies) by traffickers taking advantage of the chaos from last year’s earthquake, new figures from Unicef show.
Some youngsters are ending up in the care of well meaning but ignorant European families, while others are being forced into prostitution.
People posing as NGO officials, pretending to be relatives or unscrupulous Haitians from abroad are targeting tens of thousands of children living in the temporary camps.
The Daily Telegraph gained exclusive access to film the work being carried out by Unicef to try and tackle the problem.
The charity is funding the Brigade de Protection des Mineurs (BPM) – working in conjunction with the police – which monitors the camps and Haitian borders to pinpoint vulnerable children.
More than a million people were displaced by last January’s devastating quake and 76 per cent of the population now lives on less than £1.50 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 of her children for 50 Haitian gourdes (76 pence or $1.20) 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 she received lasted just a matter of months and she is now no better off.
Melissa and her remaining son Roland, who is 10 months old, came to the attention of Unicef and have now been placed in a safe house.
The BPM discovered that her children were given false records and then illegally adopted by European families via an international adoption agency.
A Unicef spokeswoman 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.”
As part of its work, the BPM patrols the crowded camps and porous border to try and curb the trafficking.
Françoise Moise, a BPM officer, said trafficking had always been an issue in Haiti but has grown steadily worse in the last year.
“Since the earthquake in 2010, rates of trafficking into the Dominican Republic have increased incredibly and that is the reason why we are here,” he said.
“People are coming into the camps posing as NGOs, and foreigners that have come to help Haiti.
“They also pose as Haitians living abroad coming to help and sometimes even Haitians living here, pretending to be members of their family.”
Mr Moise, 46, said some of the camps contained more than 80,000 families, making them difficult to monitor.
He coordinates groups of civilian volunteers to help patrol the camps.
“Most of the children that are trafficked into the Dominican Republic have fallen victims of prostitution or these children are adopted illegally.
“Whether at the airport, or the border, or the camps, we are trying to stop child trafficking from happening at all.”
Part of the BPM‘s work involves stopping vehicles at the border and checking the travel documents of anyone under 18.
Dieudonne Barnave, a BPM official, said: “The most difficult thing for us is when they have false documents for the children to cross the border because we don’t have the means of verifying whether these documents are fake or real.”
Before the earthquake, it was estimated that 2,000 children in Haiti were kidnapped or trafficked every year.
Since Unicef started funding the BPM last April, 8,000 children have been identified as extremely vulnerable within the camps.
The BPM has also 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.
Unicef is working with the Haitian government to try and introduce anti-trafficking laws. You can help Unicef’s work in haiti by donating here.