Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Church Group Arrested for Human Trafficking in Haiti

On Friday night, Haitian authorities arrested ten Americans, self-professed members of what they call New Life Children’s Refuge, for attempting to smuggle 33 Haitian children across the border into the Dominican Republic. Haitian authorities allege the Americans carried no paperwork identifying any of the children, ranging in age from two months to 12 years, as orphans or clearing them for adoption.

Laura Sillsby, a member of the arrested group, commented, "We have a Baptist minister here (in Port-au-Prince) whose orphanage totally collapsed and he asked us to take the children to the orphanage in the Dominican Republic.” Sillsby also claimed, “We had permission from the Dominican Republic government to bring the children to an orphanage we have there.”

However, this attempt to convey the children across the border without any documentation raises serious concerns about the current state of children with missing parents in Haiti. In the aftermath of the earthquake on January 12, Haitian authorities have expressed concerns that the country’s children are vulnerable to child trafficking schemes, as well as attempts by legitimate groups who may inadvertently transport children out of Haiti for adoption without an adequate attempt to locate the child’s family. It would seem that this problem will persist for some time, as a sufficient period of time must be spent searching for a presumed orphan’s parents before adoptions can take place. For this reason, the Haitian government has recently cut down on many types of adoption.

It may be impossible to tell, however, whether the group confirmed the children to be orphans, and thus genuinely meant to provide refuge, or whether they were only compounding an already grave and problematic situation, fraught with shades of gray with respect to the human rights of these children.