Haitian children kidnapped and sold, aid workers fear

By Brett Popplewell

January 30, 2010 / thestar.com

PORT-AU-PRINCE–Kidnapped children. Multiple rapes. Gang violence. A burgeoning black market. And the unknown whereabouts of 4,000 criminals. These are but a few of the problems overwhelming police and peacekeepers tasked with maintaining order in a post-apocalyptic Haiti.

On Wednesday, the Star watched as a hungry mob turned violent when the World Food Program tried to dole out 1,266 bags of rice to the masses. Friday, the Star revisited the site and found some of those bags being sold at a marked up value of $40 a bag.

But of all illegal activities, the reported kidnappings of children, and the related fears they could be trafficked into the sex trade or sold into domestic servitude and international adoptions, is the only criminal activity that cannot be confirmed. And yet it remains of principal concern to aid workers here and abroad.

Kent Page, of the United Nations Children's Fund mission in Haiti, says his organization has received multiple reports that children may be disappearing from hospitals and makeshift tent cities across the capital. Haitian and UN police are investigating the allegations but have not been able to confirm the reports.

"The chaotic situation in Port-au-Prince means there are many unaccompanied children in makeshift camps or on the street," says Page.

"They are extremely vulnerable to exploitation, sexual violence, abuse and possibly illegal trafficking."

With would-be parents around the world lining up to adopt Haiti's many orphans, the remnants of the Haitian government have tightened the rules surrounding the adoption process. Any child heading out of the country must first be equipped with papers bearing the president's signature to legitimize the adoption.

U.S. Homeland Security officers, operating at the airport in Port-au-Prince, say they are diligently ensuring that all children bound for America have the appropriate paperwork whether they are orphans or not.

Orphans bound for Canada and any other nation must first be processed by the destination country's embassy, which is responsible for ensuring the child is either a legal orphan or is accompanied by a legal guardian.

Gabrielle Baptiste, supervisor of immigration at Haiti's Toussaint L'Ouverture Airport, says the stringent policies make it hard for anyone to traffic a child through the airport.

But that might not be the problem.

A more plausible scenario, according to Baptiste, is that children may be exiting the country by car through Haiti's 360-kilometre border with the Dominican Republic where they could be more easily equipped with falsified papers and sold to the highest bidder.

The U.S. State Department has warned that children, orphaned or separated from their parents, could fall victim to pedophiles.

UNICEF says the thousands of unaccompanied children on the streets of Port-au-Prince are the most vulnerable, especially young girls who may be sold into the sex trade or domestic servitude.

"People involved in illegal trafficking kids aren't amateurs," says Page. "These are organized networks. They know what they are doing."

UNICEF won't comment on how much a child might be worth on the black market.

However, the sale of other black market commodities, like UN food rations, are more easily spotted in the many open street markets.

"If we catch someone selling rice we will arrest them and consider holding them for 15 to 30 days," said Josseline Colimon-Féthière, Haiti's minister of commerce.

Residents here say it's inevitable that UN food rations will be resold because people need money as well as food. They say the government has no way to police the trade because all a vendor would have to do to avoid being caught is place the UN rations in a different bag before selling it at market.

Organized and petty crimes have long been a part of Haitian life. According to the UN, crime here is no more prevalent now than it was before the Jan. 12 earthquake.

However, Haiti's national police chief, Mario Andresol, says policing the city's many refugee camps has become a major problem. Police say bandits have been preying on the thousands of homeless. Numerous assaults, robberies and the harassing and raping of young women and girls have been reported.

Police suspect many of the incidents may be committed by the 4,000 criminals who escaped from Port-au-Prince's main prison the night of the earthquake, the majority of whom have yet to be re-apprehended.

Despite the presence of UN peacekeepers and police in Port-au-Prince, the streets of Cité Soleil, a known gang haven and arguably the most dangerous slum in the Western Hemisphere, remain dangerous for foreigners and Haitians alike. Multiple attempts by the UN to deliver food to the area have met with failure.

On Thursday, UN police withdrew their escort of food trucks after they were shot at by a hungry crowd. The dangers involved with delivering food to the area have led the UN to adopt the strategy of entering Cité Soleil under cover of night with 100 peacekeepers who drop the food on the streets and then depart into the darkness before residents realize they were ever there.

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Illegal trade, and complaints being made

Before reading this article, I read a blog-piece written by a very frustrated PAP, telling readers UNICEF sucks.

What is even more infuriating is learning more about why adoption expediting has ground to a halt. You can thank the lovely people over at UNICEF. I would encourage you to read this blog post and the comments. UNICEF has been anti-adoption for a long time. I would strongly encourage you to read up on their policies before you support them if you are in favor of adoption on any level. Their biggest claim is they say they are working in the best interest of the child. As far as adoption goes, if a parent decides to put their child up for adoption, then I believe that needs to be respected by the government and other agencies, in the same way that it is in developed countries. To say that a child would be better off with another family member in the country etc is to override the wishes of the mother or parents, if they are living.

[From:  UNICEF sucks, January 30, 2010]

The blogger continues to write how thorough her orphanage is, suggesting her orphanage would NEVER get caught-up in illegal adoptions, ever.  No... that's always other orphanages... you know, the corrupt ones, not the ones good, smart, eager (and very anxious to adopt) people use.  <ENORMOUS eye roll>

She finished with the you-can't-compare-apples-to-oranges argument, meaning newly orphaned children (those affected by the earthquake) are not the same as those children living in orphanages, already put into the adoption pipeline.

If a child has already been in the system, has documentation, was deemed adoptable and was matched with a family and the adoption was already started then it is an entirely different thing. There is no extra research that needs to be done, that has been done already in the screening process.

Obviously, this blogger has not read too much about the many ways a child may be obtained and made "adoptable" for foreign buyers.   After all, why would anyone think Haiti is anything like Romania, Vietnam, Guatemala, Samoa, or any other country known for it's corrupt adoption practices?  <Demented laugh>  For some reason adopters seem to think corrupt illegal adoptions take place far far away... never within their own carefully chosen network of adoption facilitators.

After reading that blog vent-fest, I read the above posted article, knowing damn well PAP's in denial are being scammed all the time by very smart operators who know how to work the system.  Yes, believe it or not, there are people who know exactly how to fake/falsify documents so a stolen child will look like an abandoned/orphaned/legally relinquished child.  It's their job to do just that... and many are very very good at what they do.  That's why they get paid so well... in cash, thank-you.

But... for some reason, good smart adopters don't want to know the many ugly truths behind a very lucrative child trade business.  These are problems for other people.  Let those problems in Adoptionland be investigated later... well after the paid-for-child has been brought to it's new home.  At least then the AP's can rest, knowing the adoption will be legally binding, meaning the child who may have been stolen/illegally obtained will not have to be returned to first-family members.  

So for the sake of those PAPs who only care about getting their much wanted child, ASAP, allow me to repeat a very key point made by those who know what happens in the world of illegal child trade:

children may be exiting the country by car through Haiti's 360-kilometre border with the Dominican Republic where they could be more easily equipped with falsified papers and sold to the highest bidder.

As Kent Page, from United Nations Children's Fund mission in Haiti says: 

"People involved in illegal trafficking kids aren't amateurs,"  "These are organized networks. They know what they are doing."

If you ask me, UNICEF doesn't suck; greedy "I am entitled to a child, (because I already paid)" people do.

No empathy for denial-drenched PAPs.

If you ask me, UNICEF doesn't suck; greedy "I am entitled to a child, (because I already paid)" people do.

 

Must. Look. "Normal" At. All. Costs. People who think they are entitled to children or think they define the norm just because they breed like fleas and flies can be added to that list.

Even as they say -- ooo pick us, we're so much smarter, better, etc. than those riffraff who go to...those...kinds of agencies.

I do not like seeing PAPs getting ripped off for any reason. A tumble off that moralistic high horse, where $$$=better than the rest, would make them less of a target, though.

Angry adopters

It's funny to see how these angry adopters, all of a sudden are anti-UNICEF.

Here is another fine example, under the title Why I Do Not Support UNICEF, another disgruntled adopter, goes on a vent fest, because UNICEF tries to prevent a massive exodus of children from Haiti.

I don't understand why adopters are often so angry. I can understand the ones being scammed to be angry, but the ones who actually received children and were not really duped in the process are often even angrier. Why do so many adopters have an anger problem? Why do so many see the world in black and white, that everyone who is critical towards adoption practices, is immediately labeled as anti-adoption? Why are people that have such anger issues even allowed to adopt?

Could it be that those angry adopters actually know they are involved in something fishy, and live in denial? Let's face it, if we compared children to cars, no one in their right mind would agree it's good to continue selling cars from an industry known to sell stolen goods. Then again, everyone who bought a 2nd hand car for an unreasonably low price, could very well be just as defensive.

Angry, and on the attack

I don't understand why adopters are often so angry. I can understand the ones being scammed to be angry, but the ones who actually received children and were not really duped in the process are often even angrier. Why do so many adopters have an anger problem?

I have seen and heard concerned and scared AP's trying to tell others how and where they have been scammed, and instead of getting equally concerned feed-back, they got attacked by other AP's.  It's quite comical if you think about the black and white reasoning behind such reactions.  You see, in Adoptionland, people are not allowed to be critical or say anything bad about adoption practices, agencies or orphanage directors.  Such acts and behaviors, in Adoptionland, are taboo and sacrilegious.  If you do dare to speak out against certain practices, (and people), you are no longer one of the "us" people... you are one of "them"... one of those anti-Christ anti-adoption people.  Gawd forbid.

It's a similar response given to abused adoptees who want to share their own experience so others can see not all adoption stories include happy endings.

Victims are the criminals and messengers with obvious bad news are not well-tolerated... not when so many want to believe adoption saves children from very poor care and child abuse.  Of course our abuse pages prove just how scary and dangerous some adoptive homes can be.... but for some reason, many don't want to believe abuse in adoptive families exist. 

AP's who tell their stories about their stolen adopted children are seen the same way... like villains who should not be allowed to speak. 

Could it be that those angry adopters actually know they are involved in something fishy, and live in denial?

Here's the tricky part...I honestly believe most AP's believe they are indeed helping children stuck in poor care... especially in poor countries where parents are dying from starvation or AIDS, not crack/heroine addictions.  AP's are removing children, one by one, from ugly situations and wretched living conditions.  One by one, AP's are making the world a much better safer place for a child put in-care.  But there's a problem with this mind-set.  Does adoption solve the problem of poor care given in children's homes/orphanages, or does international adoption act as an incentive to provide really poor care? 

People need to see how care-facilities benefit from bad crap care and shameful reputations. 

Using the car analogy, if you can reduce your overhead, quick-sell your collected inventory and increase your profits, are you really going to invest money in better quality and care?  No, you are going to try to sell as many of your products as possible, whether the buyer is a foreign AP or a world-traveling pedophile... a pedophile who knows to travel with cash.

"Saving a child" from a poorly run orphanage isn't going to make orphanage care any better... not in very corrupt regions of the world.  In many cases, international adoption helps facilitate a rapid turn-over.  Think like a corrupt orphanage director would:  the more children kept in poor care and sold to highest (foreign) bidders, the better.

Nothing new in any of this, is there?

AP's don't want to believe in many areas/regions.. areas that thrive on illegal and corrupt adoption practices... children are used to solicit a very good amount of money.... cash that can be spent on non-child-related things, like cars, clothes, and vacation homes.

AP's adopting internationally want to believe they are part of the solution, not part of the problem.

If you thought you were doing something good, only to learn you were contributing to perverse corruption and increasing a child's chance of being neglected/abused, wouldn't you feel a little angry, too?

I thank God there are angry adopters in the world.... we need more of them to help plan an attack against corrupt illegal adoptions.  We need more concerned adults fighting for better quality services for those who need it most -- children put in-care.

AP's who tell their stories

AP's who tell their stories about their stolen adopted children are seen the same way... like villains who should not be allowed to speak.

In my experience, only other adoptive parents want to silence us - and oddly enough, it has only been American adoptive parents who have tried to silence me. None of my fellow adoptive parents in Australia have been critical, at least not to my face ;-) And the general public has not once been critical of us speaking up.
An interesting side-effect of going public about our family's experience with child trafficking is that I now have more media interest than I've ever wanted. Last week, I was called by the producer of a national breakfast tv show, who wanted my advice on how to help the many people who had emailed his program, requesting information on how to adopt Haitian orphans. I explained to him (to his surprise) that intercountry adoption was not an appropriate response to the unaccompanied children of Haiti, and certainly not at this point in the crisis. He asked me to appear on their program, to explain to the public what I'd just explained to him, so the next morning I was on tv. Later that morning, two radio stations called me for interviews - one live during the news and the other to take place this week (an hour-long interview as part of a panel). I agreed, not because I'm interested in the publicity but because I figured these are good opportunities to be able to get the message out there.
Julia

Careful out there

Sorry for the cliche, but hell hath no fury like an AP who is told they are not a savior.

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