31 Underage Haitian Girls Rescued From Alleged Human Trafficking Operation

Nine adults have been arrested under charges of human trafficking after 31 young girls were discovered, crowded into a hotel room in Acôte des Arcadins, Haiti.

Credit – CNN

31 girls, ages 13-17, have been rescued from a room at the Kaliko Beach Club hotel in La Côte des Arcadins, Haiti. The Haitian National Police simultaneously arrested nine suspects in a neighboring hotel room. According to Inspector Gary Desrosiers, police are investigating how the girls were kept together in the room for so long without raising the suspicion of hotel staff. The discovery was made as part of an ongoing anti-child-trafficking sting operation focusing on the epidemic of kidnappings and disappearances among Haitian children. Kaliko Beach Club is among a collection of resort hotels on the coast of La Côte des Arcadins, 70km north of the Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince. The 31 underage girls were being held in room 155, while their captors were found nearby in room 158. Some of the suspects were known as “missionaries”, and the police were said to have been tipped off by fellow missionaries.

It is believed that the suspects planned to take the children to the neighboring country of the Dominican Republic. Human trafficking from the impoverished country of Haiti into the more economically stable Dominican Republic – and beyond – is a growing problem, accounting for thousands of disappearances annually. As reported by UNICEF, it is not uncommon for parents to entrust their child into the hands of a stranger who promises a better life for them in a more affluent country. The impoverished conditions of Haiti often result from chronic housing shortages, unemployment, lack of educational opportunities, sub-standard health and in-access to water and sanitation services.

Many parents, unable to support their families given the severely limited resources available in Haiti, send their children with strangers with the intention of later reuniting abroad. UNICEF supports “child protection brigades” at official border crossings in Haiti, to ensure that children without documentation cannot pass illegally into the Dominican Republic. However, in many parts of the border, the two countries are separated by only a dirt road, and no security in sight. This makes it extremely easy for traffickers to take children out of Haiti, where they may be sold for sexual exploitation or child labor.

The U.S. Department of State has currently placed Haiti on it’s Tier 2 watch-list, defined as a country that does not meet the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards. The Dpt. of State cites that “Haitians are exploited in forced labor in the Dominican Republic and elsewhere in the Caribbean as well as the United States. The groups most at risk of trafficking were Haitians without documentation and those from the lowest income backgrounds, especially women and children. One Haitian government report estimated that the births of more than 10 percent of Haitians were not registered.”

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