Ten Americans have been arrested after allegedly trying to smuggle 33 children out of earthquake-stricken Haiti.
The Baptist church group claimed they were on a mission to rescue orphans of the disaster.
But last night the Haitian authorities accused the group of child trafficking and ‘abduction’.
They said the five men and five women had no paperwork authorising them to take the children, who are aged between two months and 12 years, across the border into the Dominican Republic.
The group, from the Idaho-based charity New Life Children’s Refuge, were stopped at Malpasse, Haiti’s main border crossing, after police conducted a search of their bus.
Officers said they were arrested because they did not have proof that the youngsters – many of whom were sick and dehydrated – were orphans.
And they pointed out that although the leader of the detained group claimed to be taking the children to an orphanage, the building is still in the planning stages.
Prime Minister of Haiti Max Bellerive said yesterday he was outraged by the group’s ‘illegal trafficking of children’ in a country long afflicted by the problem.
But some parents say they would part with their children if it would mean a better life.
Adonis Helman, 44, one of some 20 Haitian parents interviewed at a tent camp yesterday said: ‘Some parents I know have already given their children to foreigners.’
‘I’ve been thinking how I will choose which one I may give – probably my youngest.’
The arrests will renew concerns about child abduction, which has blighted Haiti for years. Even before the 7.0 earthquake struck on January 12, killing as many as 200,000, around 2,000 youngsters were believed to be being taken from the streets each year.
Aid groups say 500,000 children have either been made homeless or are in orphanages following the quake, and that rumours of child trafficking are circulating. In response, Haiti’s government has imposed strict controls on adoptions amid fears traffickers could exploit the current chaos.
Although hundreds of children have been flown to the U.S. to meet new parents, most were already in the process of being adopted before the disaster.
The 33 children, aged between 2 months to 12 years, have been taken to an orphanage run by Austrian-based SOS Children’s Villages, which is trying to find their parents or close relatives.
A spokesman said: ‘One child, an eight-year-old, said she thought she was going to some sort of summer camp in the Dominican Republic.
‘She was crying, and saying, “I am not an orphan. I still have my parents”.’
Probably the work of Satan. Yup, just as I suspected:
In Idaho, the Rev. Clint Henry denied that his Central Valley Baptist Church had anything to do with child trafficking and said he didn’t believe such reports. He urged his tearful congregation to pray to God to “help them as they seek to resist the accusations of Satan and the lies that he would want them to believe and the fears that he would want to plant into their heart.” – cbsnews
But seriously, it will be interesting to hear their side of the story.