On 12 January 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake hit the Caribbean country of Haiti. At least 112,000 people have been killed, 196,000 injured, and 800,000 displaced in one of the deadliest earthquakes of recent times. (1)
Before the earthquake, Haiti was already the poorest country in the western hemisphere and recognised as a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and sexual exploitation. The large population of street children were frequently forced to work in prostitution or street crime by criminal gangs. (2)
However, the recent earthquake has displaced many people and separated lots of children from their families, increasing their risk and vulnerability to human trafficking. (3) Stories are already emerging of groups of men picking up abandoned children from the ruins and disappearing.
There has therefore been an urgent call for awareness around the following:
- People offering Haitians job opportunities in foreign countries.
- People claiming to be the relatives of abandoned or orphaned children.
- Military, relief workers, or others, demanding sexual favours in exchange for aid.
Workers on the ground are being asked to do the following:
- Warn potential victims of human trafficking scams.
- Register and protect people in support facilities, especially children.
- Educate new staff about human trafficking.
- Respond quickly if a child or parent asks for help or appears threatened. (4)
STOP THE TRAFFIK encourages everyone to know what human trafficking is, how it affects them, and what they can do it about it, especially around what the signs of human trafficking look like and how to report it. If people are going to travel abroad, they should do the following:
- Check that any work, travel, and identity documents are accurate.
- Get any financial agreements in writing and keep separate copies.
- Give contact details to trusted people and keep in regular contact.
More than ever in Haiti at this time, it is local communities who hold the key to preventing human trafficking.
1. US Geological Survey 02/02/2010
2. US Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons 16/06/2009
3. US Department of State 28/01/2010
4. Salvation Army World Service Office 22/01/2010