Children in Haiti need protection from irregular adoption

In the wake of the massive humanitarian disaster in Haiti, Amnesty international have issued a statement reminding the relief effort to keep human rights at the core of aid delivery and redevelopment.

The death toll has already reached 200,000 and will continue to grow.  Amnesty has, in their lengthy analysis of the road ahead, has stated that this massive loss of lives cannot be attributed only to the forces of nature. 

The endemic poverty that afflicts the majority of Haitians has contributed significantly to the extensive and prolonged devastation.  In encouraging and supporting reconstruction in Haiti, it is essential that the international community does not recreate the same factors that put people at risk of human rights violations and perpetuate inequalities and poverty.

In November, on the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Amnesty’s launched a campaign for children in Haiti working as ‘restaveks’.  It was estimated that over 100,000 children in Haiti were working as domestic servants, caught in a cycle of poverty and abuse.  The majority were young girls.  The UN Rapporteur for Haiti had declared the practice a ‘modern form of slavery’.

In the statement, Amnesty has significantly emphasized children’s human rights as a priority for Haiti in the coming months.  Children are the most vulnerable members of society and this vulnerability increases in a post-disaster situation due to lawlessness and violence, separation from family and the heightened effects of poverty.

Amnesty warns that many children have lost their protective environment of family and schooling, and may easily fall prey to the trafficking and exploitation networks that were operating in Haiti before the earthquake.  The practice of sending children to wealthy families to become ‘restaveks’ is no exception.

A key concern is that separated children who may wrongly be considered orphans are at risk of being subsumed into an irregular adoption process.  Family tracing should be the first priority for  the Haitian authorities, the international community and aid agencies, as well as the establishment of safe spaces for separated or orphaned children. 

International adoption should be considered a last resort – in accordance with the Hague Convention on International Adoptions. 

Despite the extraordinarily difficult time ahead international aid, military and administrative forces must work hard to mainstream and uphold high standards of children’s rights.

Amnesty has also called upon these forces to use the UN Guidelines for Gender-Based violence Interventions in Humanitarian Emergencies as a framework for working with women, mothers and young girls affected by the disaster.

Read the full statement here.<!--[endif]-->

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