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You just tell them what kind of child you are looking for and they can bring across whatever it is that you want. There is a thriving trade in Haitian children in the Dominican Republic , where they are mostly used for domestic service, agricultural work or prostitution. Eight-year-old Jesus Josef was one of them. Numbed by a mixture of trauma and shyness, this small boy with huge eyes cannot recall how he left his three brothers and mother in Haiti and ended up doing domestic work for a Dominican family in Barahona, miles from the capital, Santo Domingo.
Jesus sits quietly as Father Pedro Ruquoy, who runs a refuge near Barahona, tells how he escaped from the family and ran away to a local hospice. When he arrived his neck was twisted from carrying heavy loads on his shoulder and the marks on his slender torso suggested ill-treatment. The Dominican family found out where he was and came to the hospice demanding either his return or 10, pesos for the loss.
Nobody knows quite how many Haitian children like Jesus there are in the Dominican Republic. A Unicef report in put the figure at around 2,, although some NGOs think it might be twice that. Most boys under the age of 12 end up begging or shoe shining and giving their proceeds to gang leaders; most girls of that age are used as domestic servants. Older boys are taken to work in construction or agriculture; teenage girls often end up in prostitution. Tensions have long existed between the two countries that share the island of Hispaniola.
In May, and then again last month, the Dominican Republic summarily deported thousands of Haitians, many of whom had the right to stay. A former Haitian consul to the republic, Edwin Paraison, says the situation had not been this bad since the former Dominican military leader Rafael Trujillo massacred 20, Haitian sugar cane workers in But even as Haitians are reviled, they are also needed for their cheap labour. The manner in which the children arrive varies. Some are kidnapped but most often their parents not only know, but actually pay "busones" or scouts to ensure their safe passage in the hope that they will have a better life.
If the rains fail or someone falls ill, they have to sell what little they have - perhaps a pig or a goat - to buy medicines. Eventually they have to sell their land.