It is being reported that ten Americans have been held in Port-Au-Prince since earlier Sunday for attempting to take 33 children on a bus into the Dominican Republic. These are Baptists from America who feel the need to "gather" orphans and take them to Cabarete, where a temporary shelter is being arranged. Then they were to be taken to the Dominican town of Magante to a more permanent orphanage, according to an article online at www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/world/6844384.html today.
This is a horror story I predicted in an earlier post, on January 19, 2010 -http://ponderingpenguin.blogspot.com/2010/01/saving-haitian-orphans.html
While I didn't predict exactly that it would be ten Baptists from Idaho and that the destination would be the Dominican Republic, it was predictable that those with good intentions and compassion would get carried away and not clearly think a plan through. The group originally planned to take 100 children to a 45 room hotel, according to the article. The caper was called "Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission" and these 33 children were ages 2 months to 12 years. And, yes, this was a caper, in my mind.
The "gatherers" didn't have the proper papers for the transport of these children and certainly not to take them out of their native country. They had no idea if the children were truly orphans, either. The plan was for that determination to be made from the Dominican Republic by staff at an orphanage run by SOS Children's Villages, an Austrian-based organization. The spokesman there said one child expressed the thought that she was going to a vacation camp in the Dominican Republic.
So, what is going on here? The children have a right to be with living family. The children have a right to be protected from adults intent on exploiting them or abusing them. While these 33 adults may not have had illegal intentions, what made them think they had the right to go to Haiti and re-locate children?
The Haitian government has suspended adoption processing work. This is a very delicate situation. Truly orphaned Haitian children are vulnerable to bad things - especially child trafficking. Already there was a problem with fake adoptions in Haiti for money. The International Organization for Migration reported this in 2007, and that the fees could go to $10,000 for "processing" these bogus adoptions.
Maybe these folks from Idaho had good intentions. Maybe they were just naive or simply stupid. Either way, Haitian authorities have to get to the bottom of it. The Baptists are from Meridian, Idaho and Twin Falls, Idaho. Some members of the group are said to be from Kansas and Texas. They have a website asking for contributions - tax deductible!- to help them "gather" the children.
This has to stop. Let UNICEF, other agencies and relief workers do their work.
Those Americans being detained will go before a judge Monday.