Haiti detains 10 American missionaries on suspicion of kidnapping children though the Americans insist they were rescuing orphans.

Eight of 10 Americans detained by Haitian police as they tried to bus 33 children across the border into the Dominican Republic, allegedly without proper documents. In the front row from left to right are Carla Thompson, 53, of Meridien, Idaho, Laura Silsby, 40, of Boise, Idaho, Nicole Lankford, 18, of Middleton, Idaho. In the back row from left to right are Steve McMullen, 56, of Twin Falls, Idaho, Jim Allen, 47, of Amarillo, Texas, Silas Thompson, 19, of Twin Falls, Idaho, Paul Thompson, 43, hometown unknown, and Drew Culberth, 34, of Topeka, Kansas. The names of the two Americans not pictured are unknown. (Ramon Espinosa / AP Photo)

By Frank James

The Haitian government was largely missing in action immediately after the Jan 12 earthquake because of the heavy toll the disaster took on its own workers and ministry buildings.

But it is finally able to exert itself as ten U.S. missionaries now in Haitian police custody are learning firsthand and the hard way.

The Baptist missionaries from Idaho have been accused of attempted kidnapping for trying to take 33 Haitian "orphans" across that nation's border with the Dominican Republic.

The problem for the missionaries is that they didn't have the Haitian government's permission to take the children out of the country. And an even more fundamental problem is that some of the children may not even be orphans.

As the Associated Press reports:

Prime Minister Max Bellerive on Sunday told The Associated Press that the group was arrested and is under judicial investigation "because it is illegal trafficking of children and we won't accept that."
The Americans are the first people to be arrested since the Jan 12 quake on such suspicions.
The government and established child welfare agencies are trying to slow Haitian adoptions amid fears that parentless or lost children are more vulnerable than ever to being seized and sold.
Without proper documents and concerted efforts to track down their parents, they could be forever separated from family members able and willing to care for them. Bellerive's personal authorization is now required for the departure of any child.
The orphanage where the children were later taken said some of the kids have living parents, who were apparently told the children were going on a holiday from the post-quake misery.
The church group's own mission statement said it planned to spend only hours in the devastated capital, quickly identifying children without immediate families and busing them to a rented hotel in the Dominican Republic without bothering to get permission from the Haitian government.
Whatever their intentions, other child welfare organizations in Haiti said the plan was foolish at best.
"The instinct to swoop in and rescue children may be a natural impulse but it cannot be the solution for the tens of thousands of children left vulnerable by the Haiti earthquake," said Deb Barry, a protection expert at Save the Children, which wants a moratorium on new adoptions. "The possibility of a child being scooped up and mistakenly labeled an orphan in the chaotic aftermath of the disaster is incredibly high."

categories: Accidents and Disasters

7:09 - January 31, 2010