Suspected Child Trafficking Key to Fate of 10 Idaho Americans
Haitian authorities, upon completion of their investigation, are considering returning the Americans currently being held in relation to an alleged attempt to transport 33 Haitian children, ages 2 months to 12 years, to the United States for any possible prosecution.
The 10 Americans were stopped and arrested after being discovered Friday, January 29, 2010, with the 33 children at the Haitian border, trying to enter the Dominican Republic.
Haiti's overwhelmed government has halted all adoptions unless they were in motion before the earthquake amid fears that parentless or lost children are more vulnerable than ever to being seized and sold. Sex trafficking has been rampant in Haiti. Prime Minister Max Bellerive's personal authorization is now required for the departure of any child.
Without proper documents and concerted efforts to track down their parents, children could be forever separated from family members able and willing to care for them.
"For UNICEF, what is important is that for children separated from their parents, we do everything possible to have their families traced and to reunite them," said Kent Page, a spokesman for the group in Haiti. "They have to be protected from traffickers or people who wish to exploit these children."
The Idaho church group's spokeswoman, Laura Silsby, conceded that she had not obtained the proper Haitian documents, but told the AP from detention that the group was "just trying to do the right thing" amid the chaos.
The disaster inspired them to move more quickly than they had initially planned to start a shelter for 200 boys and girls in the Dominican Republic, where they hoped to build a school and chapel and work with U.S. adoption agencies to bring in Christian parents.
The children are now being cared for in an orphanage run by Austrian-based SOS Children's Villages, where spokesman George Willeit said workers were searching for their families. "One (9-year-old) girl was crying, and saying, 'I am not an orphan. I still have my parents.' And she thought she was going on a summer camp or a boarding school or something like that," Willeit said.
The arrested Americans include members of the Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, and the East Side Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho. They are part of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is America's largest Protestant denomination and has extensive humanitarian programs worldwide.
At present, as noted in the excerpt above, the 33 children that were involved in this incident are being housed and cared for by SOS Children's Villages, which claims itself to be " ....the world's largest charity dedicated to orphaned and abandoned children." .
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10 Idahoans Arrested for Removing 33 Haitian Children from Haiti