US citizens held over Haitian kids

PORT-AU-PRINCE - Haitian police were holding 10 US citizens yesterday on suspicion of trying to slip out of the country with 31 Haitian children in a trafficking scheme, a government minister said.

PORT-AU-PRINCE - Haitian police were holding 10 US citizens yesterday on suspicion of trying to slip out of the country with 31 Haitian children in a trafficking scheme, a government minister said.

Haitian social affairs minister Yves Christallin said the police arrested five men and five women with US passports, and two Haitians, when they tried to cross into the Dominican Republic with the children on Friday night.

He said two pastors were also involved, one in Haiti and one in Atlanta, Georgia.

"This is an abduction not an adoption," Christallin said.

He said the US citizens did not have the proper documents to take the children out of Haiti, nor letters of authorisation from their parents. The children were between two months and 12 years old and had come from various places, he said.

"What is important for us in Haiti is that a child needs to have an authorisation from this ministry to leave the country."

US embassy officials were not immediately available to comment on the case.

Haitian officials have voiced fears that child traffickers will take advantage of the chaos after Haiti's massive January 12 quake to slip out of the country with children in illegal adoption schemes.

There is also concern that legitimate adoption agencies might rush to take earthquake orphans out of the country before proper checks have been conducted to confirm their parents perished.

Haiti's quake severely crippled government agencies and pitched the country into a communications morass.

In an interview with NBC news a family member of one of those arrested, said the Americans believed the matter was just a misunderstanding over documentation. They were identified by Christallin as members of an Idaho-based charity called New Life Children's Refuge. - Sapa-AFP

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