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Thursday, 8 February 2018 - Strasbourg
Child slavery in Haiti

European Parliament resolution of 8 February 2018 on child slavery in Haiti (2018/2562(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Haiti,

–  having regard to the Joint Statement of 12 June 2017 on the occasion of the World Day Against Child Labour by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Commissioner for Development,

–  having regard to the UN Human Rights Council annual report which highlights human rights advances and challenges in Haiti in 2017,

–  having regard to the ACP-EU migration action study of 20 July 2017 on the trafficking of human beings in Haiti,

–  having regard to Haiti’s implementation report considered by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on 15 January 2016,

–  having regard to the UNHCR Universal Periodic Review of Haiti of 31 October-11 November 2016,

–  having regard to the UN Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,

–  having regard to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance,

–  having regard to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,

–  having regard to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,

–  having regard to the UN Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery, in particular article 1(d) thereof, of 7 September 1956,

–  having regard to International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour and ILO Convention 138 on the minimum age for employment,

–  having regard to the 34th session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly of December 2017 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti,

–  having regard to the Cotonou Agreement,

–  having regard to the UN Sustainable Development Goals,

–  having regard to the UN Declaration of Human Rights,

–  having regard to Rules 135(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas Haiti is one of the world’s poorest countries with severe corruption, poor infrastructure, lack of healthcare, low levels of education and historical political instability being the main sources of its crippling poverty;

B.  whereas the use of children as domestic workers, often referred to by the creole term ‘Restavek’, is systematic throughout Haiti and exists mainly due to the harsh economic conditions and cultural attitudes towards children;

C.  whereas Restavek is a form of domestic trafficking and modern-day slavery affecting approximately 400 000 children in Haiti, 60 % of whom are girls; whereas many Haitian children do not have birth certificates and are at risk of trafficking and abuse; whereas, according to UNICEF, exposure of children to violence and abuse, including corporal punishment and gender-based violence, is a substantial problem; whereas one in four women and one in five men are victims of sexual abuse before the age of 18; whereas 85 % of children aged 2 to 14 are victims of violent discipline at home, 79 % are victims of corporal punishment and 16 % suffer from extreme corporal punishment; whereas an estimated 30 000 children live in approximately 750 mostly privately-run and financed orphanages;

D.  whereas the Restavek children are typically born into poor rural families who have few or no means of raising income and will sell a child to another family in exchange for food or money;

E.  whereas the Government of Haiti has made some efforts to address the exploitation of Restavek children, such as the adoption of a comprehensive law to combat human trafficking, measures to identify and assist children in domestic servitude, and awareness raising; whereas it is the obligation of the state to support parents so that they can fulfil their responsibilities;

F.  whereas many Haitian children receive insufficient education and schooling; whereas according to UNICEF 18 % of children aged 6 to 11 in Haiti do not attend primary school; whereas approximately one-half of all Haitians aged 15 and over are illiterate, as 85 % of schools are run by private entities and are prohibitively expensive for low-income families; whereas Hurricane Matthew significantly impacted access to education, damaging 1 633 out of 1 991 schools in the hardest-hit areas;

G.  whereas more than 175 000 people, including tens of thousands of children, displaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, are still living in extremely precarious and unsafe conditions; whereas the 2010 earthquake claimed more than 220 000 lives and displaced some 800 000 children, resulting in many being forced into slavery;

H.  whereas Haiti is a source, transit and destination country for forced labour and the trafficking of children; whereas the Restavek phenomenon also has an international dimension, with many Haitian children being trafficked to the neighbouring Dominican Republic;

I.  whereas the recent electoral and political impasse following the 2016 presidential election severely hampered Haiti’s ability to pass key items of legislation and a national budget to tackle urgent social and economic challenges;

J.  whereas impunity in Haiti has been fuelled by a lack of accountability of officials, and in particular the lack of systematic investigations into the use of force and widespread illegal or arbitrary arrests by the police; whereas Haiti ranks 159th out of 176 countries in Transparency International’s corruption index;

K.  whereas Haiti is ranked 163rd in the UNDP Human Development Index and is in continuous need of humanitarian and development aid;

L.  whereas in September 2017 the Haitian parliament approved a national budget for the year 2018 that raises taxes disproportionately from an already impoverished population, which led to violent demonstrations and riots in the capital, Port-au-Prince; whereas the Minister for the Economy and Finances, Mr Patrick Salomon, presented a budget which, for instance, prioritises the cleaning of government institutions over public health programmes;

M.  whereas the EU has allocated EUR 420 million to Haiti under the 11th European Development Fund, with particular emphasis being placed on child nutrition and on education to support child development;

N.  whereas in 2017 the EU launched a call for proposals under the French title of ‘La promotion des droits des enfants et la protection des enfants victimes d’exploitation, discrimination, violence et abandon’ whose main priority was to return imprisoned children to their biological families or to place them in care families;

1.  Deplores the fact that large numbers of children in Haiti are forcibly removed from their families as part of the Restavek phenomenon and are subjected to forced labour; calls for an end to this practice;

2.  Expresses grave concern about the continuing human rights violations, including gender-based violence, illegal detentions and the practice of keeping children enslaved as Restaveks in Haiti; calls on the Haitian Government to prioritise legislative measures, namely a reform of the Criminal Code, to combat such issues, whilst re-establishing key institutions in the country which have stalled as a result of the recent political impasse, in order to deliver on urgent reforms;

3.  Calls on the Government of Haiti to urgently implement measures to address the vulnerabilities that lead to child domestic servitude, including protecting children who are victims of neglect, abuse, violence and child labour;

4.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to further help Haiti implement measures that protect children, including programmes and partnerships aimed at combating violence, abuse and child exploitation; calls on the Government of Haiti to prioritise and establish sufficiently resourced procedures to end the Restavek practice, including the training of social services to help place Restavek children away from abusive families and provide rehabilitation to meet their physical and psychological needs;

5.  Calls on the Haitian Government to put in place an administrative system which guarantees that all newborn children are registered at birth, as well as measures to register those who were not registered at birth and to register where they reside;

6.  Encourages the Haitian authorities and donors to shift major resources currently spent on expensive but poor quality orphanage institutions to community-based services that strengthen the abilities of families and communities to care adequately for their own children;

7.  Calls on the Government of Haiti and on the remaining EU Member States, where applicable, to ratify without reservation the following conventions which are essential in the fight against child trafficking and slavery:

   Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and opt-in to the inquiry and inter-state procedures,
   International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance,
   Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,
   Rome Statute;

8.  Calls for EU development assistance to pay particular attention to assisting with urgent reform of the judicial system and the training of prosecutors and judges in the handling of cases of rape and sexual violence, ensuring that the police and judiciary are trained to deal impartially with women and girls reporting gender-based violence;

9.  Notes that the Haitian parliament passed an annual budget in September 2017; underlines the recent progress made with regard to the right to education, in particular through the Universal, Free and Compulsory Education Programme, which requires both a system of effective monitoring and enforcement and a sustained financial effort both from the Haitian national budget and EU development assistance; calls for greater attention to be given to the well-being and rehabilitation of Restavek children, including the most disadvantaged, the disabled, those with learning difficulties and those in rural areas, within the framework of the next EDF and Haiti’s National Indicative Programme, including through a regular joint progress report on measures taken and their effectiveness in combatting the Restavek phenomenon;

10.  Expects the EU and its Member States, which have pledged assistance to Haiti after Hurricane Matthew, to honour their pledges and help the country to overcome its long-term challenges;

11.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Member States, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the ACP-EU Council of Ministers, the institutions of the Cariforum, the Governments and Parliaments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

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