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US Bloggers On The Case Of Kidnapping Haitian Orphans

haiti orphans

Children from Maison Des Enfants de Dieu orphanage fill the jump seats in a Travis Air Force Base, Calif., C-17, Jan. 23, preparing to head the United States to meet with their adoptive families. Image from Flickr by DVIDSHUB. Used under a Creative Commons License

As Haiti slowly treads on the path to recovery and rebuilding, there is a sense of renewed concern for the countries children-especially the orphans. Various news agencies have been reporting on child traffickers targeting vulnerable children in the country, including this report at CNN.

The orphan debate has a lot of US connections because the arrested church group was American and a lot of the orphans were destined for USA if adoptions continued. On the US blogosphere, the opinion on the missionaries seems to be divided, and the attitude of the US Department of State is also being questioned.

At the legal blog Right Juris, blogger Ryan questions the State Department's handling of the situation. In the light of facts that have emerged-that 22 out of 33 “orphans” the missionaries were trying to get to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic have living parents, and the group did not have necessary permission and documentation to take the children out of country; the State Department has decided to take the “hands off” approach.

“No matter what happens the US Missionaries Charged with kidnapping Haitian orphans appear to be stuck in Haiti for quite some time. They will be there even longer if the State Department doesn’t help try and secure their release, or a transfer of the case to The United States. The question though is should the State Department intervene? What do you think? Should this group be tried and convicted of kidnapping? Should the U.S. government press for their release? Did the group really have only good intentions when they attempted to flee the country with 33 Haitian children? I would love to hear your thoughts.”

Brazen attempt of the missionaries to go through their mission, without ever seeking necessary permission in the United States or in Haiti has raised doubts.

Paul Shepard at the blog Black Spin says that the missionaries have a tough road ahead.

“While their hearts might have been in the right place, their heads were clearly out of commission in trying to pull off such a dangerous stunt without informing government officials in the United States or Haiti about what they were doing.

No one doubts some orphans in Haiti today would be better served by moving to loving families in other countries, but that kind of effort takes time and coordination with local officials.”

Te-Ping Chen at Change.org, questions the children focused relief effort in Haiti. In her thought provoking post titled “When ‘Charity’ in Haiti Kills Children”, Chen examines the effect the missionaries’ arrest is having on volunteers who want to travel to Haiti to help.

“…Since the missionaries were arrested last month, the misbegotten travails of ringleader Laura Silsby & co. have had a chilling effect on doctors, aid workers and government officials (you know, the people who have a legitimate mission in helping Haiti with the recovery process) trying to save the lives of critically injured Haitian kids.

Now, the New York Times is reporting that 10 children have died or become worse while waiting for authorization from newly skittish authorities to get on flights out of the country for treatment.

Prior to the Americans’ arrest, every day, an average of 15 injured Haitian children were getting airlifted out of Haiti onto U.S.-bound flights. Since Silsby & co. bobbed onto the scene, though, only three children have been evacuated for treatment in the U.S. on private flights….”

Chen joins a growing list of people, including some very well known names, who are asking whether is it an act of kindness to remove Haiti's children from the country in search of better life. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson has criticized the missionaries for the brash attempt, saying that “True charity would have been to help those families care for their children — not to put them in a bus and drive them away. “

Marc Herman at a previous post in Global Voices noted that surprisingly the voice of Haitian themselves has been muted on the orphans issue. He also highlights a sudden rise of interest on Haitian children after the earthquake.

Late Wednesday evening, a Haitian judge ruled that 8 of the 10 missionaries be release immediately. They will soon be flown back to the United States, leaving behind Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter. Sisby is the group's leader.

The already fractured public opinion in the blogosphere is sure to get more intense over the surprise release of the 8 missionaries. There will also be speculation over why 2 missionaries-Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter are still being held, beyond the official explanation that the judge wants to investigate why the pair had traveled to Haiti before the devastating earthquake last month. It seems that Haiti's children will once again be on the spotlight.

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