Haiti - Two Nepalese men helped by IOM Haiti to return home have arrived in Kathmandu after an 11-month ordeal that took them through five countries on their way to what they thought was a job in the USA.
The two men, in their mid-thirties, were recruited in their native Nepal by a human smuggling network that charged them a fee with the promise of legal migration and work in America.
The men began a long journey last November that took them to Singapore, China, Brazil, Panama and finally Haiti – supposedly their last stop before reaching the USA.
They arrived in Haiti in January and were immediately taken to a private home in the northern city of Cap Haïtien, where they were kept as virtual prisoners with little food and dirty drinking water.
The family confiscated their passports, made constant threats and demanded money.
They were allowed to call their families in Nepal to ask for the money demanded by their captors. But speaking in Nepali, the men explained to their families that they were being held hostage and described the landmarks they had seen as they were being transported to the house.
The relatives in Nepal immediately contacted the military in their village, who in turn contacted the Nepal Battalion in Port-au-Prince and the Nepal Formed Police Unit (FPU) in Cap Haïtien, both part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
A rescue mission was successfully led by the Haitian National Police (HNP), with the support of the Nepal FPU and the coordination of UNPOL.
"FPU amazingly managed to identify where they were being held on the basis of the very little information provided and stormed the house," explains Jennifer MacCormack, Head of the IOM Sub-Office in Cap Haïtien.
After their rescue, the men asked for help to return home and the Nepal FPU contacted IOM Haiti to interview them, with a view to providing return assistance.
"After an assessment, IOM determined that they were victims of human trafficking and offered support. We began all the formalities to get them back home as quickly as possible. Our colleagues at IOM Nepal helped in this process and, in collaboration with a local NGO, are ensuring the necessary follow-up in Nepal," adds MacCormack.
"This is an example of the excellent collaboration between the HNP, MINUSTAH and IOM in Haiti," said Sharma Sanjay Raj, the Nepal FPU Commander in Cap Haïtien. "We were indeed very glad to learn that IOM could help our compatriots get back home!"
"This case confirms that Haiti is a country of origin, transit and destination for human trafficking and migrant smuggling. The criminal networks at work in Haiti are national and international," said Gregoire Goodstein, IOM Chief of Mission in Haiti.
"This case started as smuggling and turned into trafficking by the restriction of movement, demand for money, and physical and psychological abuse suffered by the two victims. IOM was able to help with funding from its Global Assistance Fund, which is an emergency mechanism for the protection of victims of trafficking," he added.
Most victims of human trafficking in Haiti are Haitian child victims of labour exploitation, part of the so-called restavek system, a practice that dates back at least two centuries. Restaveks are generally from very poor rural areas and are "entrusted" to slightly better off families in urban areas, who are supposed to provide for their needs, including education, in exchange for their work. But the reality is that the vast majority of restaveks end up exploited and abused.
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