Friday, January 22, 2010

Haitian Children at Risk of Trafficking

New York - A "large number" of children may have been taken out of Haiti without following proper legal steps since the country was hit by the massive earthquake January 12, resulting in the collapse of the judiciary and other government functions, the United Nations said Friday. This week, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) raised serious concern over the plight of hundreds of thousands of Haitian children who may become victims after chaos descended on their country with the earthquake.

Speaking off the record, UN officials said a "larger number" children have been taken out of the country, by airplane or by land through the Dominican Republic. Some of the children had legal documents showing they were authorized to leave the country to meet adopted families elsewhere, but some did not, and officials wanted to ensure international adoption protocols were followed despite the chaos in Haiti.

The sources said they could not be specific or be quoted as sources because it would hurt their current efforts to work with whatever is left in the government in Port-au-Prince and other governments.

UNICEF issued a statement this week, which said, "We are extremely concerned about the situation of children in Haiti, many of whom have become separated from their families and caregivers."

"These children faced increased risks of malnutrition and disease, trafficking, sexual exploitation and serious emotional trauma," the statement said. "The race to provide them with life-saving emergency food and medicine, safe shelter, protection, and care is underway."

The US and several European countries have eased immigration rules for children set to be adopted by families in their nation.

About 40 children have been taken to the United States carrying passports with visas after the US gave special permission Haitian children to leapfrog rules for entering the US on a temporary basis to make sure they receive the care they need from their soon-to-be parents.

At least 100 children were taken to the Netherlands, but 40 of them apparently were without any proper identity papers. The Dutch foreign ministry has made public their flight out of Haiti.

The Hague Convention includes protocols against child trafficking and specifying proper procedures for the adoption. The process, which could be lengthy, involves the judiciary in the country of origin granting permits allowing the exit of the children being adopted.

In the case of Haiti, the judiciary has not been functioning since the January 12 magnitude-7 earthquake.

UNICEF said a high number of children have become affected by the earthquake who need protection against exploitation, and that dire conditions for Haitian children have been known before the quake.

The UN-AIDS organization has maintained a list of some 300,000 Haitian children, many of them infected with the AIDS virus, who needed protection and care. Many of those children are classified as orphans under the UN-AIDS definition that an orphan is a child who has lost one or both parents. The list in a database is available to UN agencies caring for children.

There were 300 orphanages and creches in Haiti before the quake.

UNICEF has been trying to raise the issue of respect of The Hague Convention regarding adoption in Haiti and has been working with Port-au-Prince as well with other countries. UNICEF said it may have to plan assistance for up to 500,000 Haitian children under the current conditions in Haiti.

"It is premature to remove children at this stage in Haiti," one official.

The official acknowledged that the international community has been extremely generous and wanted to help Haiti in response to the earthquake destruction and deaths. But the experts involved in child issues said it was not in the best interest of children to be removed from Haiti now.

Copyright DPA

Source: CBC and EarthTimes

No comments:

Post a Comment