1 Feb 2010

Doubts over orphan status of quake children

4:57 pm on 1 February 2010

Doubts are being cast on a claim by a group of Americans that 33 children they were trying to take into the Dominican Republic from Haiti by bus were orphans.

Ten Americans have been charged with child trafficking but say they were just trying to help children whose parents were killed in the earthquake on 12 January.

Haitian police say they had no paperwork to show the children were orphans nor permission to take them to another country. The group was stopped on Saturday.

There are fears that children would be smuggled out of Haiti for slave labour or sexual exploitation.

Haitian Social Affairs Minister Yves Christallin says five men and five women with American passports, as well as two Haitians, were arrested as they tried to cross into the Dominican Republic with the children.

Mr Christallin says two pastors were also involved, one in Haiti and one in Atlanta, Georgia. He described the attempts by the group to take the children out of Haiti as abduction, not adoption.

The group is from a New Life Children's Refuge, based in Idaho. One member, Steve McMullen, says they were trying to take them to a safe haven.

The BBC reports that the regulations are very clear - each case of child adoption must be approved by the government.

Even before the earthquake, thousands of children disappeared each year.

CNN reports that some of the children are now thought to have at least one living parent.

The children are now at a temporary shelter in the capital Port-au-Prince run by SOS, an international children's charity.

Evacuation flights resume

The American military has announced it will resume its evacuation of critically injured victims of the earthquake in Haiti to the United States.

The White House says it has received assurances from hospitals in the US and other countries that they can cope with an influx of injured Haitians.

US military medevac flights were halted on Wednesday because of a dispute over where the patients would be treated and the cost of their care.

Surgeons in Haiti had said their patients would die if they did not receive timely surgery outside the country.