Modern-day child slavery in Haiti must end, say S&Ds

Haiti child
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The European Parliament today backed a resolution put forward by the Socialists and Democrats, which strongly condemns modern-day child slavery in Haiti. Under a traditional practice known as ‘Restavek’* children are sold into domestic servitude by their families, often experiencing forced labour, violence and sexual abuse. Around 400,000 children are affected, of which 60 per cent are girls. The European Parliament calls on the EU and member states to further help Haiti implement measures to protect children and on the international community not to reduce aid to the country at the very moment it is most needed.


Elena Valenciano, S&D Vice-President responsible for foreign affairs and human rights, said:

”Haiti is a country broken by past colonization and occupation, natural disasters, misery and hunger, and also broken by most of its own ruling class. Today, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, two thirds of its population live under the poverty line. But the poorest of the poor are the boys and the girls, who are sold into domestic servitude, where they only too often suffer exploitation, violence and abuse. This barbaric practice of modern-day child slavery must be eradicated.

“Now that Haiti has finally recovered a minimum of political and democratic stability over the past year, the country needs more than ever our support to carry through much needed reforms to break the endless circle of poverty, illiteracy and child slavery. We call on the EU and on member states, and the international community, to stand by their responsibility and help Haiti protect their children.”


Nobert Neuser, S&D MEP and spokesperson on development, added:

"To break the vicious circle of poverty, illiteracy and enslavement, in which hundred thousands of Haitian children are trapped, the government must enforce compulsory school attendance.  Most households do not allow their so-called ‘Restavek’ children to go to school, severely hampering their chances of finding a decent job later in life. Tragically, their children will in turn be at a higher risk of becoming domestic child servants themselves and having to live under the conditions the United Nations and the International Labor Organization (ILO) qualify as slavery.

"We call on the Haitian government to enforce regular school attendance and the age-appropriate placement of the children, as well as registration of all children at birth. All children deserve protection and education.

"If the EU is serious about helping these children to escape their misery, we must ensure in the framework of the upcoming European Development Fund that the enforcement of compulsory school attendance is monitored and the issue of the ‘Restavek’ children is clearly addressed within the focal sector education."

*Restavek is a Haitian Creole term, which literally means ‘to stay with.’ Originally conceived as a system to send children to live with wealthier relatives in the city so they could receive an education and enjoy a better life, the restavek system has deteriorated in recent years.
It has become a form of domestic trafficking and modern-day slavery, particularly in the face of the country's increased economic pressures following the January 2010 earthquake. In addition to working long hours, these children are often physically, sexually, and verbally abused, according to the International Labor Organisation.