The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

Letter from General Curia about Human Trafficking


(FEBRUARY 2010, n. 3 ** CURIA, OSA, Frs. Michael and Alejandro
The Secretariat for Justice and Peace, committed to assist the friars of the Order in acquiring a greater awareness of the trafficking of people, which is the priority goal for the years of 2009 – 2011, offers this report.
Historic duplicity in the trafficking of children
 “Everyone in this country knows about the trafficking of children: there are the
mafias of lawyers, the leaders of churches (sects),the small, established ‘ad hoc’ power groups,
the fraudulent doctors …” (Fr. Miguel Jean Baptiste)
The whole world was moved and indignant when it learned of the presumed kidnapping of 33 children during the full-blown crisis of the Haitian people (death, missing persons, loss of homes ….) caused by the powerful earthquake.
            The government of Haiti, was bothered by the public media attention that this news received. Perhaps unconsciously, this governmental reaction revealed an acknowledgement of what they assume as the normal state of affairs. Why? Because as could be drawn from the comment of Fr. Miguel that we quoted above, “this is the normal state of affairs in this country”. That is to say: it is nothing new. International trafficking has been present in Haiti since the time of French colonialism… But let us not deceive ourselves. The matter is even more serious, I would say it is much more serious, because it is a reality in all those places in which poverty abounds, which disgracefully for humanity are not a few. And Haiti is a poor country.
In Haiti it is known as restavek (the word comes from the French rester avec which means to stay with someone) to the children of poor village families who are given to families living in the city, and who work for them in a type of slavery. These children, of various ages, have poverty in common. In their new ‘residence’ they eat little, rarely sleep and work a lot, according to persons directly familiar with the reality.
What is the cause of this situation in Haiti? Since the independence of this country (more than 200 years ago) the various governments have not bothered themselves about the cultivation of the land. Nor are there schools or educational centers for children … and then what? It then happens that these families do not hesitate to give their children to whomever. This is the hard reality and not only in Haiti, but in almost all poor countries. Now we can understand why the parents of some of these 33 children, taken by a religious intermediary (the term habitually used) of the Baptist church, had said that they would give the children over to these people again, since they are not able to support them. This is the tragedy for many families of this country who are not able to give their children a piece of bread nor take them to school.
This is the phenomenon that repeats itself automatically. The reason is that since the independence of Haiti there has not been a clear effort to free its people from a mentality of slavery. In fact, it has been cultivated.
It is calculated that there are some 300,000 ‘restavek’. While not all of them are victims of mistreatment, a disturbingly high percentage of them are. Ages range from 5 to 17 years old. Almost 70% are girls; the majority subjected to even greater abuse. Two years ago, 238 rapes were documented between the period of January, 2007 to June, 2008. In reality there are many more. These young boys and girls are “the poor of the poor”. The look in the eyes of these children is the saddest in Haiti. The only positive aspect is that many “welcoming families” have experienced what it is to be “restavek”.
Alongside these families that take in as many children as they can into their homes, there are persons who dedicate their lives for these unfortunate little ones. Fr. Miguel Jean Baptiste ( a Catholic priest) is one of them. His parish is poor but it is very rich in humanitarian commitment and in fraternity. There, on the heights of a hillside, sunny and dusty, surrounded by pitiable housing is his parish and his work. Among the many good things there, he had created a center (a shelter) for the restaveks, in Puerto Príncipe in Carrefour. This shelter cares for almost 400 children. There, they are given food, taught to read and write, and given affection which is what these children need most. Tragically, some of them disappeared forever with the earthquake.
You can find information on the internet under the heading: Trafficking of persons – Human trafficking                 
NB. If you wish to enter into a dialogue on this topic or would like more information, contact either of the friars below:
Michael Di Gregorio -
Alejandro Moral -

Article posted on 1st of March 2010

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