Americans arrested at border with 33 orphans
Published 01/02/2010 | 05:00
Nine American Baptists who were trying to take dozens of Haitian orphans out of the country will appear in court in Port-au-Prince today after being arrested at the border with the Dominican Republic.
The Baptist church group, the majority of whose members are from Idaho, was said by police not to have had the proper documents to be able to take the 33 children from Haiti.
The Americans were arrested on Friday night on a bus carrying children aged from two months to 14 years old.
A spokeswoman for the group said they intended to set up an orphanage in the Dominican Republic where the children could enjoy a better life.
Their 'Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission' was described as an effort to save abandoned, traumatised children.
"In this chaos the government is in right now we were just trying to do the right thing," said Laura Silsby, the group's spokeswoman.
However, Haiti has suspended international adoptions amid fears that parentless or lost children are more vulnerable than ever to child trafficking.
The Americans were last night being held at the judicial police headquarters in the Haitian capital.
Their plan had been to find 100 children and take them to a 45-room hotel that they were converting into an orphanage. Ms Silsby said the group only had the best of intentions and had paid no money for the children.
Haiti's earthquake victims faced a new threat yesterday as doctors warned that the seriously injured could die after medical flights to America were halted by a dispute over hospital bills and capacity.
US military flights carrying patients to Florida -- only two hours by air from Port-au-Prince -- and other states have been suspended, leaving hundreds in need of urgent surgery.
Barth Green, a senior surgeon from Miami who is working at Port-au-Prince's airport, said at least 100 of his most critically injured patients, many of whom were children, could die within days unless they were flown out.
He said there were "hundreds of thousands of critically injured and severely disabled Haitians" and "we're only trying to send a few hundred to America".
"We have to resume these flights. Letting them die, that's not America," he said.
However, US military officials said they had been forced to suspend flights because American hospitals were increasingly unwilling to accept the patients, many of whom are suffering from head and spinal injuries or severe burns.
The suspension is blamed on a dispute between the US federal government and Florida's state government over who should pay for the medical care.
The United Nations began a major distribution of aid in the Haitian capital yesterday and hopes to feed two million people. (© Daily Telegraph, London)