Vienna, 2 March 2023 — Increasingly sophisticated and high-calibre firearms and ammunition are being trafficked into crisis-hit Haiti, according to a new assessment released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) titled Haiti’s criminal markets: mapping trends in firearms and drug trafficking.
Gang-related violence in Haiti has reached levels not seen in decades, according to the January 2023 report of the Secretary-General to the UN Security Council, and a recent uptick in firearms seizures, together with intelligence and law enforcement reporting, suggests that firearms trafficking to Haiti is surging. Moreover, as the UNODC assessment details, Haiti remains a trans-shipment country for drugs, primarily cocaine and cannabis entering via boat or plane at public, private and informal ports as well as clandestine runways.
“By providing a rapid assessment of illicit firearms and drug trafficking, this UNODC study seeks to shed light on the trafficking flows enabling gangs in Haiti and fuelling further violence in a volatile and desperate situation to help inform responses and support to the people of Haiti,” said Angela Me, Chief of the UNODC Research and Trend Analysis Branch.
Haiti suffers from porous borders – including 1,771 kilometres of coastline and a 392-kilometre land border with the Dominican Republic – which are severely challenging the capacities of the under-resourced and under-staffed national police, customs, border patrols and coast guard, who are themselves targeted by gangs.
Homicides, kidnappings, and displacement are spiking in the country, which is suffering the worst human rights and humanitarian emergency in decades. Gang violence is compounding the severity of a cholera outbreak, increasing food insecurity, displacing thousands of people, and keeping children out of school, according to the Report of the Secretary-General.
The assessment also provides an overview of international, regional, and national responses to date, in particular efforts to increase support to Haiti’s law enforcement and border management, and highlights the need for comprehensive approaches encompassing investments in community policing, criminal justice reform and anti-corruption.