On 20 June, the UN Migration Agency (IOM) opened Haiti’s first Border Resource Centre (BRC), in coordination with the Mayor of Anse-à-Pîtres and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour. The BRC is the first State institution tasked with ensuring the safe and respectable return of Haitian migrants to their country of origin. Three additional BRCs are in the process of being built at the remaining three official border sites: Malpasse, Belladère, and Ouanaminthe.

These centres will allow local protection agencies to better identify, orient, and assist vulnerable migrants – all while creating a space where the agencies can collaborate with each other and provide psycho-social counselling. The project also seeks to put in place referral mechanisms in order to facilitate greater access to basic services and support the sustainable reintegration of vulnerable migrants in Haiti.

“Migrants are human beings beyond all else. Opening a centre where we can welcome migrants and provide them with psychological counseling to heal their wounds is a strong symbolic and humane gesture. This important initiative is supported and encouraged by the Haitian government,” said Roosevelt Bellevue, Minister of Social Affairs and Labour, during the opening of the BRC.

A sizeable number of Haitians irregularly cross the border into the Dominican Republic in search of services and opportunities. The absence of documentation only worsens their vulnerabilities and exposes them to different forms of abuse and ill-treatment, such as human trafficking, including forced labour and sexual exploitation, among others.

“Since the expiration of the registration period to the National Regularization Plan of Foreigners (NRPF) in June 2015, IOM has recorded that more than 202,252 Haitian migrants have spontaneously returned or were deported to Haiti,” explained Fabien Sambussy, IOM Haiti Chief of Mission. “This figure shows that assistance is needed throughout the border region in order to help vulnerable migrants returning home, particularly women and children. Many arrive in precarious conditions. They might have no access to resources, have been separated from their family, are undernourished or exhausted from having spent several days in Dominican detention centres.”

IOM, with financial support from the Canadian Government, has implemented an assistance project for migrants: “To Help Vulnerable Children and Women in the Border Regions of Haiti.”

“Canada is proud to help ameliorate the protection and the promotion of the fundamental rights of women and children. This initiative is well aligned with the new feminist policy of development assistance of Canada,” said Ivan Roberts, Head of the Haiti-Canada Cooperation.

“Respecting human dignity remains an unbroken part of the history in the fight for women’s rights. In every circumstance the rights of women must be respected,” said Eunide Innocent, Haiti’s Minister of the Status of Women and Women’s Rights.