Haiti : The Dominican Republic and the Enslavement of Children from Haiti

Ankhur

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Torture

Jesus sits quietly as Father Pedro Ruquoy, who runs a refuge near Barahona, tells how he escaped from the family and ran away to a local hospice. When he arrived his neck was twisted from carrying heavy loads on his shoulder and the marks on his slender torso suggested ill-treatment. The Dominican family found out where he was and came to the hospice demanding either his return or 10,000 pesos for the loss. "They used him as a slave," says Mr Ruquoy. "And they tortured him."

Nobody knows quite how many Haitian children like Jesus there are in the Dominican Republic. A Unicef report in 2002 put the figure at around 2,500, although some NGOs think it might be twice that. Most boys under the age of 12 end up begging or shoe shining and giving their proceeds to gang leaders; most girls of that age are used as domestic servants. Older boys are taken to work in construction or agriculture; teenage girls often end up in prostitution.

Tensions have long existed between the two countries that share the island of Hispaniola. In May, and then again last month, the Dominican Republic summarily deported thousands of Haitians, many of whom had the right to stay. A former Haitian consul to the republic, Edwin Paraison, says the situation had not been this bad since the former Dominican military leader Rafael Trujillo massacred 20,000 Haitian sugar cane workers in 1937. "This is the first time regular people are trying to run Haitians out of the country," he says. "There is an organised campaign to reject Haitian presence."

But even as Haitians are reviled, they are also needed for their cheap labour. The manner in which the children arrive varies. Some are kidnapped but most often their parents not only know, but actually pay "busones" or scouts to ensure their safe passage in the hope that they will have a better life.

"Half of all Haitians struggle to eat even once a day," says Helen Spraos, Christian Aid's Haiti representative. "It doesn't take much to push people over the brink. If the rains fail or someone falls ill, they have to sell what little they have - perhaps a pig or a goat - to buy medicines. Eventually they have to sell their land. Once they reach rock bottom, the one way they can provide for their children is by sending them to live in the cities or in the Dominican Republic. There at least they may be fed and have some prospects for making a living."

Border

Such stories are familiar in the narrow alleyways in the barrios of Christo Rey, an area of Santo Domingo. Nine-year-old Louseny's mother died when she was a baby and she was raised by her grandmother in central Haiti. Last month, her grandmother paid her "aunt" to bring her over the border and leave her with people Louseny did not know. Louseny says she misses her home.

Florencia Talon, who looks after 10-year-old Violetta after her mother left her, says people have approached her in the street to ask her to take in children. "In most cases the Haitian family is told that the child will go to someone who will help raise the child," says Father Jose Nu-ez, the director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Santo Domingo. "They are told they will get an education and have a better chance. But this actually happens very, very rarely. In most cases they are verbally or physically abused and mistreated."

Getting them over the border is the easy part. According to Unicef, about a third of trafficked children come through the mountains; the rest go through official border checkpoints. On market day in Dajabón, the only papers you need to get across the bridge that links the two countries are peso notes to bribe the border guards. Those who are turned back simply wade across the Massacre river.

"The scouts are paid around 600 pesos, half of which goes to the scout and half of which is paid to the immigration authorities as a bribe," says Angelica Lopez, the Jesuit Refugee Service director in Dajabón. "The Dominican state and the military are completely complicit in the trafficking." Once across, the child will be passed through series of more informal networks until they are placed with a family, gang or into work.

There is a law against trafficking in the Dominican Republic, but it is rarely enforced and the authorities remain in denial. "There is no trafficking," says Juan Casilla, the state prosecutor for Dajabón. "I have never had one case of trafficking lodged with my office."

Mr Ruquoy says the sugar companies are also complicit, paying Haitian traffickers 2,000 Haitian gourdes (£26.44) for each worker.

Over at the sugar fields near Barahona, the smell of burning cane stems and the sound of slashing machetes suggest a scene from another century. Hundreds of men, their ragged clothes held together by sweat and grime, hack away beneath a high sun and above the smouldering stems, which are easier to cut when burned. From 6am until 6pm they are there, swinging, yanking, slicing and burning for about £1 a day. Ask any of them and they will tell you they are 18. Look and you will see that about one in eight could not possibly be older than 16.

Cheated

Jesus Nord, 15, used to be one of them. Two years ago he paid a Haitian scout 50 gourdes to smuggle him over the border and then went to work in the fields for a year. After being cheated of his earnings and physically abused, he left. "I was never there when they weighed the sugar so they would give me less then they owed," he says. "They also used to beat me to make me work faster."

When asked the age of his employees Virgilio Bernal, the head of the Barahona refinery, Consorcio Azucerero Central, said: 'We always comply with the law.'

The trafficking of Haitian children represents the bottom rung of a migratory ladder through the Americas that sees Dominicans striving to get to Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans moving to the US. "The market for cheap labour keeps people moving," says Mr Nu-ez. "Since so many other countries have closed their doors to Haitians the only chance they have is to go to the country that is slightly less poor than Haiti and the easiest to get to. The economy could not function without them. But it takes a terrible toll on the individuals."

Haiti

Population 8.1m (July 2005)

Infant mortality rate: 73.45 deaths for every 1,000 live births

Life expectancy: 52.92 years

Politics Interim president, Boniface Alexandre, sworn in after former leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide went into exile in February 2004

GDP: $12bn (2004)

Real growth rate: -3.5% (2004)

Labour force Agriculture 66%, industry 9%, services 25%

Unemployment: widespread; more than two-thirds of the labour force do not have formal jobs (2002).

Dominican Republic

Population 8.9m (July 2005)

Infant mortality rate: 32.38 deaths for every 1,000 live births

Life expectancy at birth: 67.26 years

Politics Leonel Fernandez began his second non-consecutive term as president in August 2004, after winning elections in May for the Dominican Liberation party

GDP: $55bn (2004)

Real growth rate: 1.7% (2004)

Labour Force Agriculture 17%, industry 24.3%, services and government 58.7% (1998)

Unemployment rate: 17% (2004).


http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/sep/22/garyyounge.mainsection
 

blackeyes

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May 14, 2003
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Tensions have long existed between the two countries that share the island of Hispaniola. In May, and then again last month, the Dominican Republic summarily deported thousands of Haitians, many of whom had the right to stay. A former Haitian consul to the republic, Edwin Paraison, says the situation had not been this bad since the former Dominican military leader Rafael Trujillo massacred 20,000 Haitian sugar cane workers in 1937. "This is the first time regular people are trying to run Haitians out of the country," he says. "There is an organised campaign to reject Haitian presence."

I know the Dominican gov't would be all up in arms if this gov't told Dominicans to get the hell out; even if they had a "right" to stay.
...too bad they aren't treated the way they treat Haitians.


The trafficking of Haitian children represents the bottom rung of a migratory ladder through the Americas that sees Dominicans striving to get to Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans moving to the US. "The market for cheap labour keeps people moving," says Mr Nu-ez. "Since so many other countries have closed their doors to Haitians the only chance they have is to go to the country that is slightly less poor than Haiti and the easiest to get to. The economy could not function without them. But it takes a terrible toll on the individuals."

I wonder why...
Haitian children are even used as slaves in their own country...gosh!
 

bientempo

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Oct 11, 2009
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304
Dominican Republic
The US can and should deport anyone there illegally! What would be wrong with that?
Lets not lay all of this on the DR. Most are sold to Haitians by Haitians. Not to say that some dont end up in the Dominican Republic, but who brought them over, who did they stay with until they were farmed out. If they are begging who collects the money they beg. In almost all cases other Haitians. Construction workers are not staked to the building they wander at will. By Haitians to Haitians for Haitians.

Haitian women, men, and children are trafficked into the Dominican Republic, The Bahamas, the United States, Europe, Canada, and Jamaica for exploitation in domestic service, agriculture, and construction
Not justifying it, because it cant be justified. But if the Dominicans were cut completly out of the picture, you would still have the majority of the problem as it occures within Haiti, and around the world.

http://www.theworld.org/2010/02/01/haitis-child-slaves/
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/12/24/haiti.child.slaves/index.html
http://www.blogher.com/battling-child-slavery-haiti
http://dissidentvoice.org/2010/02/child-slavery-in-haiti/
http://stopchildslavery.com/

Link to Ankhurs post
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/sep/22/garyyounge.mainsection
Much has changed since 2005 when this was written. Most sugar cane processing is automated for instance, and has been before this was written.
 

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