Haiti slows orphan flights over human trafficking concerns

The Miami HeraldJanuary 27, 2010 

Acting on persistent fears that homeless and orphaned children will be victimized by human traffickers, the Haitian government in Port-au-Prince has put the brakes on the large-scale migration of orphans destined for adoptive families in the U.S.

Haiti's prime minister, Jean-Max Bellerive, told The Miami Herald his government had considerable fears that children may be scooped up in the streets of Port-au-Prince by nongovernmental organizations. The government also has concerns that children may be trafficked into prostitution or slavery.

Bellerive said his country would not release children for adoption without his personal approval, and ordered nongovernmental organizations working in Port-au-Prince to stop collecting children found on the street.

"I, personally, Jean-Max Bellerive, the prime minister of the Republic of Haiti, signed three specific authorizations of adoption lists that were in the adoption process with people who are known for their services with children who are clearly identified as orphans," Bellerive told The Herald.

As Bellerive's order began to take effect, adoption workers, alerted by U.S. Embassy officials, scrambled over the weekend to move as many prospective adoptive children to the U.S. as possible.

A U.S. military cargo plane flew about 50 Haitian orphans to Sanford, near Orlando, at 1:30 a.m. Monday after leaders of the His Home for Children orphanage in Port-au-Prince were told such flights would likely be suspended later that day, said Chris Nungester, the orphanage director.

"We were advised to get the children out of their beds, get them dressed and load them into trucks to get them to the airport, so they could immediately be placed on the next available flight," Nungester said. The U.S. Embassy, she said, had told her such flights were coming "to a screeching halt."

Another large Port-au-Prince orphanage, His Glory Adoption Outreach, flew 79 orphans to Florida last week, but was forced to leave another 27 children behind, as Haitian social service workers were concerned that they had not completed their adoption paperwork.

To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.

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