SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Since January's earthquake, at least 7,300 Haitian children have been smuggled into the Dominican Republic, traffickers and child advocates say.
Many of the children told reporters for El Nuevo Herald and The Miami Herald they have been forced into prostitution and begging.
Smugglers, preying on the hunger and desperation of Haitian children, and their families, told the Herald they operate with the connivance of corrupt officials in both countries. A UNICEF report and child advocates on both sides of the border confirm this.
``All the officials know who the traffickers are, but don't report them,'' said Regino Martínez, a Jesuit priest and director of the Border Solidarity Foundation in Dajabon, a Dominican border town.
The problem became a scandal when an Idaho church group attempted to bring 33 children from Haiti to an orphanage it was establishing in the Dominican Republic. But a month later, smugglers moved 1,411 children out of the country with no one noticing, a child protection group said.
The Herald found the trafficking of children continues, with reporters witnessing smugglers carrying children across a border river as border guards looked on and did nothing.