Haiti is a major country of origin of migrants, both regular and irregular. This resulted in a significant diaspora and migrant population living in the Dominican Republic (and more broadly the Caribbean region), the United States of America, Canada, and more recently South and Central America. As a direct consequence of the lack of migratory regulation and limited socio-economic opportunities, thousands of Haitian migrants risk their lives every year by embarking on perilous journey to reach neighboring countries, including dangerous sea and land crossings.
Haitian migrants face a wide range of protection issues, including human trafficking, smuggling, communicable diseases as well as lack of reintegration assistance for returnees and deportees. In addition, in the past few years, a growing number of neighboring countries have scaled up their deportation programs resulting in a growing number of Haitian returning forcibly to Haiti. The Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, the United States as well as France have been sending back Haitian migrants, many of whom having little to no capacity to successfully reintegrate themselves socio-economically in their home country. This increases the likelihood that these migrants will attempt new irregular departures.
Assisted to Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR)
To respond to this issue and to preserve the lives of Haitians who are trying to live abroad, IOM offers direct assistance to returnees through its Return and Reintegration Assistance Program (AVRR). The aim of the AVRR program is to ensure a safe and dignified return to migrants who cannot or do not wish to remain in the host or transit country where they are and who wish to return voluntarily to Haiti. To do so, IOM works with the relevant IOM missions and authorities to facilitate their return and reintegration when resources allow.
Among the activities carried out under this type of program, IOM provides capacity-building support for key Haitian government migration officials, in particular to the National Office for Migration (ONM) to support their ability to directly manage the returns and reintegration of irregular migrants. This includes training of civil servants in the immediate support of returnees, as well as in the development of procedures for the reception of returns to the airport. This support facilitates a transition strategy to transfer responsibility for the direct management of these returned migrants at the end of the AVRR programs with the condition that the Government of Haiti allocate sufficient resources to the ONM to continue its activities.
Haiti is a source, transit and destination for men, women and children subjected to forced labor and sexual exploitation. Although there is no official statistics on human trafficking in Haiti, the majority of cases identified by Protection actors are children in domestic labor; and women and undocumented migrant workers who are exploited in sex trafficking and forced labor domestically and abroad. Due to the Haitian Government’s limited capacities to enforce key protection provision, institute assistance mechanisms for Victims of Trafficking (VoTs) and persecute traffickers, Haiti now ranks as Tier 3 in the U.S Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report.
Since 2008, IOM, through its 4 Ps approach based on the Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Partnership, has been supporting the Government of Haiti (GoH) to combat human trafficking by providing direct assistance to over 2,500 children VoTs, technical guidance in the elaboration Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law in 2014 and operational support to the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking (CNLTP). The CNLTP is an inter-ministerial committee established in 2015, whose objective is to coordinate activities to combat human trafficking, prevent trafficking and establish protection mechanisms for victims. Most recently, IOM’s assistance to the CNLTP has included a training on the basic concepts of trafficking and protection of victims as well as in the drafting of the first Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) on the identification and protection of victims of trafficking. Additionally, through the ACP-EU, IOM has provided support for the conduction of an assessment to draw a baseline and make recommendation to fill the gaps and design a national strategy.
In addition, as natural disasters heighten the risk, and create the right environment, for traffickers to exploit the vulnerabilities of the affected population, following hurricane Mathew, IOM supported the establishment of a working group – within the Protection group – in order to mainstream counter trafficking (CT) activities in the affected areas.
Activities related to Counter Trafficking in crisis situations included: a hotline 840 (Ligne Verte) for protection cases, distribution of 20,000 awareness bracelets related to the hotline, deployment of 8 protection IOM staff” in the Sud and Grand’Anse departments for case follow-up, sensitization and focus groups on human trafficking.
In addition, IOM has been carrying out training sessions on “Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse” (PSEA) for the humanitarian community engaged in the Hurricane Matthew response. The achievements of CT in crisis’ activities situation in the Mathew response have been taking as a good practice for the preparedness and response to recent hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Border Ressource Center
Many migrants that cross the border irregularly may be exposed to various types of abuses, including confiscation of identity documents, forced labor, domesticity / trafficking and gender-based violence (GBV). This situation, combined with the migratory pressure exerted by the expiration of the Dominican Government's National Regularization Plan (PNRE), increases the vulnerability of migrants, especially women and children.
Since March 2016, IOM Haiti has been implementing a two-year project entitled “Assisting vulnerable children and women in bor-der areas between Haiti and Dominican Republic”. This project aims to support the Haitian Government in strengthening protection mechanisms for vulnerable migrants along the border and to improve local capacities to mitigate the risks related to irregular migration and human trafficking. Governmental partners include specialized entities within the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Justice (Haitian National Police) and the Ministry of Interior.
In order to do so, IOM is operationalizing three Border Resources Centers (BRC) at Belladere, Malpasse and Anse-à-Pîtres and is in process to install one in Ouanaminthe.
These centers will provide:
- a space for registration of vulnerable migrants. (with a specific focus on children and women as per the donor’s priorities)
- a fully-equipped coordination room for local protection actors. (state and non-state agents)
- a room to conduct provide confidential and safe psycho-social assistance. (individual counseling)
The Border Resource Center constitutes the cornerstone of the project as it allows for the registration and onward referral of vulnerable migrants to specialized institutions ( such as medical centers, hosting centers, among other resource networks supported by the Ministry of Social Affairs). The BRC is also at the heart of protection mechanisms for returning migrants and deportees from the Dominican Republic. It represents the first state institution tasked with ensuring the safe and respectable return of Haitian migrants to their country of origin.
To date, thanks to the project “Assisting Vulnerable Children and Women in the Border areas between Haiti and Dominican Republic”:
- 1,927 beneficiaries living in border areas have attained their birth certificates /archives records thanks to the support of our partner ICDH “Initiative Citoyenne pour les Droits de l’Homme”.
- 439 beneficiaries have received Income-Generating Activities to support their sustainable reintegration and 203 children have received school reinsertion packages and are back in school thanks to the activities of CAPAC- “Centre d'Animation Paysanne et d'Action Communautaire”.
- 295 local governmental and non-governmental actors have been trained on fundamental human rights, SGBV prevention, Child Protection, Family Planning, Trafficking in Persons (TiP) and Irregular Migration.
IOM reiterates its unconditional support to the Ministries, authorities, and migration-focused Haitian institutions working to address and confront Haiti’s internal and external migratory problems.. IOM hopes to continue supporting the Haitian government with all of their efforts to insure and promote regular migration and protect the most vulnerable migrants.