Call for halt to Haiti adoptions over traffickers

EU foreign ministers must agree halt to any new adoptions into Europe of Haiti earthquake children

The EU foreign ministers must announce an , say Save the Children and World Vision.

Aid agencies and the Government must be given the chance to conduct full and exhaustive searches to reunite families following the earthquake, before any international adoption ban could be lifted. Separated and orphaned children must be registered and interim arrangements made for them to be cared for, ideally by their extended families or those close to them. Earmarked funding is urgently needed to scale up these efforts.

Thousands of children unaccounted for since Haiti's earthquake are at risk of falling prey to child traffickers, aid agencies have warned, as fears were raised over at least 15 children who have vanished from hospitals within the past few days.

Unicef, the UN children's agency, warned that "traffickers fish in pools of vulnerability. We know from past experience that trafficking happens in the chaos that usually follows emergencies." A Unicef adviser, Jean Luc Legrand, said he knew of at least 15 cases of children disappearing from hospitals.

Aid agencies and the Government must be given the chance to conduct full and exhaustive searches to reunite families following the earthquake, before any international adoption ban could be lifted. Separated and orphaned children must be registered and interim arrangements made for them to be cared for, ideally by their extended families or those close to them. Earmarked funding is urgently needed to scale up these efforts.

Save the Children believes adoptions that were already being processed should go ahead, as long as the appropriate legal documentation is in place and the adoptions meet Haitian and international law. However the chaos of the earthquake, which destroyed records as well as infrastructure, means that children could be taken out of the country without proper checks going ahead. It can costs thousands of pounds to internationally adopt a child yet that money could help a whole school of children remain in their communities.

Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children, said: "Many families in Europe will see the suffering of Haitian children who have been separated from their parents, and want to do something to help. But trying to adopt children who most likely still have parents or relatives alive and are desperate to be reunited with them is not the solution. Taking children out of the country would permanently separate children from their families - a separation that would compound the acute trauma they are already suffering and inflict long-term damage on their chances of recovery."

Save the Children and World Vision's experience following previous disasters such as the Pakistan earthquake and the Asian tsunami has found that children have been unnecessarily adopted or placed in orphanages without extensive checks being done to see if there were relatives that could care for them instead.

Without proper focus on family tracing and a immediate ban on new adoptions, child trafficking - already a major problem in Haiti - could increase, warns the aid agencies.

Jasmine Whitbread continued: "EU ministers must act now to ban any new adoptions into Europe and support the Haitian government to put trained personnel on the country's borders to prevent the illegal movement of children, and to rebuild their child protection systems so that the circumstances of individual children can be properly assessed and recorded."

Save the Children and World Vision are also calling for international focus to remain on reuniting children in Haiti, and for the Haitian government to declare an immediate moratorium on any new adoptions of children left on their own until full extended family tracing and reunification has been completed.

World Vision Chief Executive Justin Byworth said: "Children should not be leaving Haiti at this stage except with surviving family members or if adoptions already in process have full required legal documents. Thousands of children have been separated from their families and primary caregivers due to the earthquake and more than half a million children were already separated either living on the streets or in orphanages, or working as restaveks in private homes away from their families.

"As well as supporting the efforts of aid agencies and the Haitian governnment to identify separated children and conduct family tracing and reunification, as well as finding and funding appropriate care arrangements for them, we would urge EU ministers to push for the rapid establishment of a public complaints and response mechanism within Haiti for reporting and responding to sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking."

Save the Children and World Vision have teams on the ground identifying lone children and Save the Children is launching an emergency family tracing and reunification programme to reunite families and help put in place long-term support for their care.

Dear Sirs, Madams,

We call on the EU  Ministers to put immediate ban on any new adoptions into Europe of children who have been separated from their relatives in Haiti
.

The following petition received over 200 signatures.

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EU foreign ministers must agree halt to any new adoptions into Europe of Haiti earthquake children


The EU foreign ministers must announce an immediate ban on any new adoptions into Europe of children who have been separated from their relatives in Haiti, say Save the Children and World Vision.

Aid agencies and the Government must be given the chance to conduct full and exhaustive searches to reunite families following the earthquake, before any international adoption ban could be lifted. Separated and orphaned children must be registered and interim arrangements made for them to be cared for, ideally by their extended families or those close to them. Earmarked funding is urgently needed to scale up these efforts.

Thousands of children unaccounted for since Haiti's earthquake are at risk of falling prey to child traffickers, aid agencies have warned, as fears were raised over at least 15 children who have vanished from hospitals within the past few days.

Unicef, the UN children's agency, warned that "traffickers fish in pools of vulnerability. We know from past experience that trafficking happens in the chaos that usually follows emergencies." A Unicef adviser, Jean Luc Legrand, said he knew of at least 15 cases of children disappearing from hospitals.

Aid agencies and the Government must be given the chance to conduct full and exhaustive searches to reunite families following the earthquake, before any international adoption ban could be lifted. Separated and orphaned children must be registered and interim arrangements made for them to be cared for, ideally by their extended families or those close to them. Earmarked funding is urgently needed to scale up these efforts.

Save the Children believes adoptions that were already being processed should go ahead, as long as the appropriate legal documentation is in place and the adoptions meet Haitian and international law. However the chaos of the earthquake, which destroyed records as well as infrastructure, means that children could be taken out of the country without proper checks going ahead. It can costs thousands of pounds to internationally adopt a child yet that money could help a whole school of children remain in their communities.

Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of Save the Children, said: "Many families in Europe will see the suffering of Haitian children who have been separated from their parents, and want to do something to help. But trying to adopt children who most likely still have parents or relatives alive and are desperate to be reunited with them is not the solution. Taking children out of the country would permanently separate children from their families - a separation that would compound the acute trauma they are already suffering and inflict long-term damage on their chances of recovery."

Save the Children and World Vision's experience following previous disasters such as the Pakistan earthquake and the Asian tsunami has found that children have been unnecessarily adopted or placed in orphanages without extensive checks being done to see if there were relatives that could care for them instead.

Without proper focus on family tracing and a immediate ban on new adoptions, child trafficking - already a major problem in Haiti - could increase, warns the aid agencies.

Jasmine Whitbread continued: "EU ministers must act now to ban any new adoptions into Europe and support the Haitian government to put trained personnel on the country's borders to prevent the illegal movement of children, and to rebuild their child protection systems so that the circumstances of individual children can be properly assessed and recorded."

Save the Children and World Vision are also calling for international focus to remain on reuniting children in Haiti, and for the Haitian government to declare an immediate moratorium on any new adoptions of children left on their own until full extended family tracing and reunification has been completed.

World Vision Chief Executive Justin Byworth said: "Children should not be leaving Haiti at this stage except with surviving family members or if adoptions already in process have full required legal documents. Thousands of children have been separated from their families and primary caregivers due to the earthquake and more than half a million children were already separated either living on the streets or in orphanages, or working as restaveks in private homes away from their families.

"As well as supporting the efforts of aid agencies and the Haitian governnment to identify separated children and conduct family tracing and reunification, as well as finding and funding appropriate care arrangements for them, we would urge EU ministers to push for the rapid establishment of a public complaints and response mechanism within Haiti for reporting and responding to sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking."

Save the Children and World Vision have teams on the ground identifying lone children and Save the Children is launching an emergency family tracing and reunification programme to reunite families and help put in place long-term support for their care.

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