Prevalence

There are an estimated 237,700 people in modern slavery in Haiti – this is equivalent to 2.3041% of the entire population

Haiti is the least developed country in the Americas,1 where poverty has contributed to use of the restavèk system. This is a common cultural practice that involves children being sent to work for other families, usually because their own parents do not have the means to care for them. The common understanding of this practice is that children will have access to school and be provided for in a way that their families cannot accommodate.2  However, many restavèk children experience exploitation in the home of their caretakers, including forced domestic service, and chronic verbal, physical, and sexual abuse.3

The children come from the impoverished rural areas of Haiti, or from within poor urban areas, and labour in households in the cities.4  Much of the housing in urban areas is extremely basic, lacking facilities like running water and reliable access to electricity. Everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning and fetching water can be extremely arduous, and this is why many families take on a restavèk child. Some are forced to work very long hours, performing dangerous chores or tasks, such as carrying heavy loads, being exposed to dangerous traffic, and cooking with materials that have a damaging effect on their bodies. Many are physically abused, and some sexually abused as well.5  Often, they are deprived of schooling, or where they are allowed to go sporadically, this is in such a way that they are unable to keep on top of schoolwork and fall behind or drop out.6  Restavèk children are commonly deprived of the nurturing and attention a child needs to grow and flourish.

Haitian children are also vulnerable to trafficking across the border into the Dominican Republic for domestic work, child labour and commercial sexual exploitation.7  Street children, often runaway or expelled restavèks, are vulnerable to street crime or trafficking by criminal gangs.8

Although children make up the majority of victims of modern slavery in Haiti, adult victims have also been identified in forced labour in agriculture, construction and forced prostitution within Haiti, in the Dominican Republic, other Caribbean countries, the United States, and South America.9  Up to 200 women every year are trafficked into Haiti from the Dominican Republic, for sexual exploitation.10  Women living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, which still exist four years after the earthquake of January 2010, are vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour.11

Government response

ScoreSurvivors are supportedCriminal justiceCoordination and accountabilityAttitudes, social systems and institutionsBusiness and government
C22.238.12518.80

In 2014, the Government of Haiti enacted a new trafficking law,12 criminalising the recruitment, transportation, transfer or receipt of adults and children.13  The advocacy efforts of the substantial Haitian-led movement informed this law.14

The government’s child protection efforts fall under the remit of the Institute of Social Welfare and Research (IBESR) and the Brigade for the Protection of Minors (BPM) of the National Police.15  The IBESR, overseen by Ministry of Work and Social Affairs, conducts the Table Sectorielle on Restavèk, which brings together Haitian and International NGOs to work together on the eradication of restavèk.16

So far this year, the BPM has assisted over 200 minors, some of which may have been restavèk children and either reunited them with their families or entrusted them to the services of the IBESR.17  However, their capacity has remained limited due to a lack of funding.18

Vulnerability

Slavery policyHuman rightsState stabilityDiscriminationDevelopment
68.26764.37581.3

It is likely that every Haitian among the lower and middle classes grows up being exposed to the restavèk practice in some way. If not growing up in restavèk themselves, a child will be exposed to the practice within her own home or neighbourhood, and may be conditioned to perceive the practice as normal. This fuels what Haitians call sitirans, meaning acceptance or over-tolerance of the practice within Haitian society.19

Domestic work is a common form of employment for women and children from rural areas, and often families are unable to afford to pay an adult domestic worker, leaving room for exploitation of children. To reduce the exploitation of legally employed domestic workers, Haiti has introduced a law regulating domestic work.20

The lack of industry and employment opportunities in Haiti leave many men, women and children vulnerable to exploitation within and outside of the country. The continued existence of IDP camps, as well as the pre-existing precarious living conditions of many Haitian people, mean that women and children are especially vulnerable to exploitation and sexual abuse and violence. A lack of law enforcement in many areas provides little protection to people, particularly those living in camps and in poor, heavily populated areas that are commonly run by criminal gangs.

Recommendations

Government

  • Implement a wide-reaching awareness campaign to educate Haitians about the new law.
  • Increase law enforcement capacity and combat corruption within law enforcement to ensure that the new law is implemented on the ground.
  • Follow-up reported cases of modern slavery with investigations, prosecutions and convictions of perpetrators.
  • Focus on building capacity of services to assist identified victims with safe transition, rehabilitation and reintegration.

Business

  • Agricultural businesses in the Dominican Republic should ensure that Haitian workers are there of their own free will, that they are receiving a wage and that they have access to services.
  • Become involved in government-led awareness campaigns to educate their workers and the surrounding community about modern slavery.
“In the afternoon, I go and fetch water and that’s quite a way from here. It takes me about one hour and a half.”
“I sleep on the floor with the other children.”
“Yesterday was a very long day for me. It was laundry day and I had to go and fetch water twice. I worked for 8 hours.”
“She gets mad and hits me sometimes.”
“They whip me.”
    Children living in Restavèk describing their experiences to the US Department of Labor in 2012.
    A. Cooper, P. Diego-Rosell, & C. Gogue, Child Labor in Domestic Service (Restavèks) in Portau-Prince, Haiti, (ICF International, 2012) p. 31, accessed 10/06/14: http://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/pdf/2012RestavekHaiti.pdf.

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    Footnotes

    1. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report 2014: Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience, (UNDP, 2014) p. 162, accessed 18/08/14: http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/hdr14-report-en-1.pdf
    2. Y. Pierre, G.R. Smucker & J. Tardieu, Lost Childhoods in Haiti: Quantifying Child Trafficking, Restaveks & Victims of Violence, (Pan American Development Foundation & U.S. Agency for International Development, Haiti Mission, 2009), p.8, accessed 28/04/14: http://www.crin.org/docs/Haiti_lost_childhoods.pdf
    3. As above, p. 6
    4. As above
    5. A. Cooper, P. Diego-Rosell, & C. Gogue, Child Labor in Domestic Service (Restavèks) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, (ICF International, 2012), p. 40, accessed 10/06/14: http://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/pdf/2012RestavekHaiti.pdf
    6. H. Howell, Urban Child Labor in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, (ICF International, 2012), p. 30 accessed 10/06/14: http://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/pdf/2012CLUrbanHaiti.pdf
    7. M, Forst, Report of the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti, (Human Rights Council, United Nations General Assembly, 2013), p. 13 accessed 18/08/14: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A-HRC-22-65_EN.pdf
    8. A. Cooper, P. Diego-Rosell, & C. Gogue, Child Labor in Domestic Service (Restavèks) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, (ICF International, 2012), p. 5, accessed 10/06/14: http://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/pdf/2012RestavekHaiti.pdf
    9. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Trafficking in Persons Report: Haiti Country Narrative, (United States Department of State, 2014), p. 195, accessed 20/06/14: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/226846.pdf
    10. Field source
    11. “Migrant Assistance: Assisted to Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR)”, International Organisation of Migration, accessed 22/08/14: http://haiti.iom.int/migrant-assistance
    12. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Trafficking in Persons Report: Haiti Country Narrative, (United States Department of State, 2014), p. 195, accessed 20/06/14: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/226846.pdf
    13. As above, Law No. CL/2014-0010
    14. “Haiti Enacts World’s Newest Anti-Trafficking Law”, Free the Slaves blog, last modified 11/08/14: http://ftsblog.net/2014/08/11/haiti-enacts-worlds-newest-anti-trafficking-law/
    15. Field sources
    16. Personal communication
    17. Personal communication
    18. “Haiti – Social: More than 200 intervention of the Brigade for the protection of minors”, Haiti Libre, June 10, 2014, accessed 22/08/14: http://www.haitilibre.com/en/news-11342-haiti-socialmore-than-200-intervention-of-the-brigade-for-the-protection-of-minors.html
    19. Immigration and Refuge Board Canada, Haiti: The “restaveks”; state protection provided and support offered by NGOs; Voodoo rites to which parents may subject their children, (UNHCR, Refworld, 2013), accessed 22/08/14: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5373272e4.html
    20. Field source

    Other reports

    Country briefs

    View detailed country briefs that describe the nature of problem, government responses, and action needed to address modern slavery in 32 countries.

    Country results

    View the prevalence, vulnerability and government response data of each country.

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    Survivors are identified, supported to exit and remain out of modern slavery
    Criminal justice mechanisms address modern slavery
    Coordination and accountability mechanisms for the central government are in place
    Attitudes, social systems and institutions that enable modern slavery are addressed
    Businesses and governments through their public procurement stop sourcing goods and services that use modern slavery

    Government response rating: AAA

    Numerical range: 59 to 64

    The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of AAA are as follows:
    The government has an implemented an effective and comprehensive response to all forms of modern slavery, with effective emergency and long-term reintegration victim support services, a strong criminal justice framework, high levels of coordination and collaboration, measures to address all forms of vulnerability, and strong government procurement policies and legislation to ensure that slavery is not present in business supply chains. There is no evidence of criminalisation or deportation of victims.

    Government response rating: AA

    Numerical range: 53 to 58

    The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of AA are as follows:
    The government has implemented a comprehensive response to most forms of modern slavery, with strong victim support services, a robust criminal justice framework, demonstrated coordination and collaboration, measures to address vulnerability, and government procurement guidelines and/or supply chain policies or legislation to ensure that slavery is not present in business supply chains.

    Government response rating: A

    Numerical range: 47 to 52

    The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of A are as follows:
    The government has implemented key components of a holistic response to some forms of modern slavery, with strong victim support services, a strong criminal justice framework, demonstrated coordination and collaboration, measures to address vulnerability, and may have taken action to ensure that government procurement policies do not encourage slavery.

    Government response rating: BBB

    Numerical range: 41 to 46

    The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of BBB are as follows:
    The government has implemented key components of a holistic response to modern slavery, with victim support services, a strong criminal justice response, evidence of coordination and collaboration, and protections in place for vulnerable populations. Governments may be beginning to address slavery in supply chains of government procurement, or of businesses operating within their territory. There may be evidence that some government policies and practices may criminalise and/or cause victims to be deported.

    Government response rating: BB

    Numerical range: 35 to 40

    The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of BB are as follows:
    The government has introduced a response to modern slavery, which includes short term victim support services, a criminal justice framework that criminalises some forms of modern slavery, a body to coordinate the response, and protections for those vulnerable to modern slavery.There may be evidence that some government policies and practices may criminalise and/or cause victims to be deported, and/or facilitate slavery.

    Government response rating: B

    Numerical range: 29 to 34

    The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of B are as follows:
    The government has introduced a response to modern slavery, with limited victim support services, a criminal justice framework that criminalises some forms of modern slavery, (or has recently amended inadequate legislation and policies), a body or mechanisms that coordinate the response, and has policies that provide some protection for those vulnerable to modern slavery. There is evidence that some government policies and practices may criminalise and/or deport victims, and/or facilitate slavery. Services may be provided by International Organisations (IOs)/ NGOs with international funding, sometimes with government monetary or in-kind support.

    Government response rating: CCC

    Numerical range: 23 to 28

    The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of CCC are as follows:
    The government has a response to modern slavery, with limited victim support services, a criminal justice framework that criminalises some forms of modern slavery, has a national action plan and/or national coordination body, and has policies that provide some protections for those vulnerable to modern slavery. There is evidence that some government policies and practices may criminalise and/or deport victims, and/ or facilitate slavery. Services may be largely provided by IOs/NGOs with international funding, with limited government funding or in-kind support.

    Government response rating: CC

    Numerical range: 17 to 22

    The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of CC are as follows:
    The government has a limited response to modern slavery, with largely basic victim support services, a limited criminal justice framework, limited coordination or collaboration mechanism, and few protections for those vulnerable to modern slavery.There may be evidence that some government policies and practices facilitate slavery. Services are largely provided by IOs/NGOs with limited government funding or in-kind support.

    Government response rating: C

    Numerical range: 11 to 16

    The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of C are as follows:
    The government response to modern slavery is inadequate, with limited and/or few victim support services, a weak criminal justice framework, weak coordination or collaboration, while little is being done to address vulnerability.There are government practices and policies that facilitate slavery. Services, where available, are largely provided by IOs/NGOs with little government funding or in-kind support.

    Government response rating: D

    Numerical range: <0 to 10

    The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of D are as follows:
    The government has a wholly inadequate response to modern slavery, and/ or there is evidence of government sanctioned modern slavery. However, countries in this category may be experiencing high levels of poverty and internal conflict that may prevent, or hinder a response to modern slavery.