Americans held in 'illegal adoption'
Irish Examiner (online), Sunday,
January 31, 2010
Ten Americans were detained by Haitian
police as they tried to bus 33 children across the border into the
Dominican Republic, allegedly without proper documents.
The Baptist church members from Idaho called it a Haitian Orphan Rescue
Mission, meant to save abandoned children from the chaos following
Their plan was to scoop up 100 kids and take them by bus to a rented
hotel at a beach resort in the Dominican Republic, where they planned to
establish an orphanage.
Whether they realised it or not, these Americans – the first known to
be taken into custody since the January 12 earthquake – put themselves
in the middle of a firestorm in Haiti, where government leaders have
suspended adoptions amid fears that parentless or lost children are more
vulnerable than ever to child trafficking.
“In this chaos the government is in right now we were just trying to
do the right thing,” the group’s leader, Laura Silsby, told
reporters at the judicial police headquarters, where the Americans were
being held pending a hearing tomorrow before a judge.
Ms Silsby said they only had the best of intentions and paid no money
for the children, whom she said they obtained from well-known Haitian
pastor named Jean Sanbil of the Sharing Jesus Ministries.
Ms Silsby, 40, of Boise, Idaho, was asked if she didn’t consider it
naive to cross the border without adoption papers at a time when
Haitians are so concerned about child-trafficking.
“By no means are we any part of that. That’s exactly what we are
trying to combat,” she said.
Social Affairs Minister Yves Cristallin told reporters the Americans
were suspected of taking part in an illegal adoption scheme.
Mr Cristallin said the 33 children were lodged late Saturday at an SOS
Children’s Village outside of Port-au-Prince. SOS Children’s
Villages is a global non-profit based in Austria.
Many children in Haitian orphanages aren’t actually orphans but have
been abandoned by family who cannot afford to care for them.
Advocates both here and abroad caution that with so many people
unaccounted for, adoptions should not go
forward until it can be determined that the children have no relatives
who can raise them.
Unicef and other NGOs were registering children who may have been
separated from their parents.
Relief workers are locating children at camps housing the homeless
around the capital and are placing them in
temporary shelters while they try to locate their parents or a more
The US Embassy in Haiti sent consular officials, who met with the
detained Americans and gave them bug spray and MREs to eat, according to
Sean Lankford of Meridian, Idaho, whose wife and 18-year-old daughter
were being held.
“They have to go in front of a judge on Monday,” Mr Lankford said.
“There are allegations of child trafficking and that really couldn’t
be farther from the truth,” he added.
The children “were going to get the medical attention they needed.
They were going to get the clothes and
he food and the love they need to be healthy and to start recovering
from the tragedy that just happened”.
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