Before I begin: If you didn't donate to Haiti and regret it it's not too late. You can still check out my earlier post for suggestions on who to send your cash to.
Ever since it was revealed that religious groups were sending people to take 'orphans' out of Haiti to give them a 'better life' I've had a heavy feeling in my stomach on top of the heavy feeling created by seeing the suffering the people of Haiti have had to endure over the last period.
I'm more than happy for religious groups to mobilise people to help out and do good deeds. There's a question about how useful that can be, but without being on the ground it's difficult to know how (in)effective that help is and I'm not willing to criticise the aid effort.
However, when it comes to people trafficking it's another matter frankly.
There's a number of reasons why, even before we get to the specifics of this case, stealing children is wrong. First of all most orphans have living relatives. Taking kids out of the country means creating a permanent separation. There is no reason why you should be allowed to own children and indoctrinate them into your sect whilst denying them a reconciliation with their blood.
Second of all, during a disaster there is a fog where people lose people. It may be that people you thought were dead weren't, and it certainly is the case that kids that are lost because they have been taken away will be untraceable to their surviving relatives. Using the word orphan about a child creates the impression they have no one, but it's not necessarily true and the missionaries certainly do not know whether it's true - it's an assumption.
Third, waltzing into someone else's country and taking their children because you've decided they will have a better life isn't ok just because you're American. There is no entitlement that goes with US citizenship that says you have the right to circumvent the authorities in any country you go to.
When you get to the details of the case it is even more worrying though. The missionaries might say they are "completely innocent" and they were legitimately taking 33 kids out of the country to a new life in their Idaho Baptist inspired utopia where they would also be eligible for adoption.
However, it transpires that many of the kids have at least one living relative, they were told that the kids were simply going to be schooled and would be able to return, not if they've been adopted they wouldn't. It is also clear that the group had no authorisation from the Haitian authorities, and don't even appear to think they needed any.
That's even though they were told before the attempt that they could not take the kids across the border. The Wall Street Journal reports that;
"the Dominican Republic's consul general in Port-au-Prince, said in an interview that he met with the group's leader, Laura Silsby, on Friday at the consulate in the Haitian capital and told her she lacked the documents to transport children."I'm afraid I've no sympathy for these people languishing in a Haiti jail. I'm not a hang them and flog them sort of person but I was very pleased to hear that they would be charged and face trial. It simply cannot be right for organisations to use their wealth and the weight of their government to determine the fate of children just because they live in a poorer nation.
She told Mr. Castillo she had applied to Dominican authorities for a permit to cross the border, he said. But Mr. Castillo checked and found no such application. "I told her I could authenticate Haitian documents but she had no Haitian documents of any sort,"
ps good piece from Mike Gonzalez at the Guardian on Haitian reconstruction.