10 Americans accused of smuggling Haitian kids

14:59, February 01, 2010      

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Arrested: Eight of the accused, including leader Laura Silsby, second from right, at police headquarters in Port-au-Prince


Haitian police detained 10 Americans Jan. 30 on suspicion of trying to take 33 children out of the country illegally.

The five men and five women were arrested at the Dominican border Friday night because they had no paperwork authorizing them to take the children, who are aged between two months and 12 years. Neither did they have the proof that the youngsters - many of whom were sick and dehydrated - were orphans.

"For me it's not Americans that were arrested, it was kidnappers that were arrested," said Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.

Now, the 33 children 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, a nine-year-old, said she thought she was going to some sort of summer camp in the Dominican Republic."


Abducted? Some of the children suspected to have been taken by the charity


Yves Cristalin, Haiti's social affairs minister, said: "This is totally illegal. It is an abduction, not an adoption. What is important is that a child needs to have authorization to leave the country."

However, the 10 Baptist missionaries, mostly from an Idaho church group, said they were attempting to bring 33 Haitian children to an orphanage, although the building is still in the planning stages.

Laura Silsby, the group's leader, insisted that they had done nothing wrong. "We came here to help and we know God will reveal the truth," she said

"I was going to come back and do the paperwork. They accuse us of children trafficking. This is something I would never do. We were not trying to do something wrong - we had permission from the Dominican Republic government to bring the children to an orphanage we have there."

"We have a Baptist minister here in Port-au-Prince whose orphanage totally collapsed and he asked us to take the children."

A Haitian judge is expected to hear the case today to decide whether to bring charges against the group.

By People's Daily Online
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