Friday, October 26, 2007

Child "Rescuers" Arrested In Chad

I've come across a news story that is a little confusing to me. Maybe you can help me to understand what happened here!
As the story goes, a French children's charity called Zoe's Ark felt that children in Darfur, a wartorn area of Suda, Africa, were in danger of being killed. Many of these children had been orphaned. So the people of Zoe's Ark hatched a plan. They found "host families" in France who would be willing to take in a displaced child or two, and gathered donations from these families. They then traveled to Chad (where many refugees from Darfur are staying), gathered up 103 children between the ages of one and eight, and put them on a plane, preparing to fly them to France.
Sounds like a nice idea, right?
Unfortunately for all, group was stopped before they could get to the airport that they were headed to, the nine representatives of Zoe's Ark were arrested, and the 103 children were put into a children's shelter.
What went wrong?
Apparently, many things.
First of all, Zoe's Ark did not have permission from the government of Chad to take the children out of the country. They did not have the support of Unicef, the Red Cross, or other established organizations. In fact, it is not even certain where all the children came from, or even if they are all orphans! The children were all wearing bracelets with numbers on them, but officials were having trouble figuring out where the numbers came from or what they meant. Not only did Zoe's Ark not have permission from Chad to take the children, but they did not even have the support of officials in their own country.
Apparently, several months ago when Zoe's Ark contacted French officials about their plan, representatives from Zoe's Ark had explained that the idea was for the children of Darfur to come to France to be adopted by French families. French officials had warned the organization that they thought the whole thing sounded a little shady, and that the organization might be acting illegally if they took children out of Africa. Officials pointed out that the government of Chad does not authorize adoption of children by people in foreign countries. If a child is orphaned, every attempt must be made to find a relative or family friend in Chad to care for them, and if that doesn't happen then the child may be adopted by someone else in Chad, but not by someone from France or any other country.
Thats when representatives of Zoe's Ark changed their schpiel a little. They stopped saying the children were going to be adopted, and started referring to the families involved as "host families."
Another shady piece of information? Some reports say that the group were able to take the plan as far as they did, by claiming that they were evacuating the 103 children to France for "health reasons." This would not have been so out of the ordinary, as sick or injured children are sometimes sponsored to be taken to other countries temporarily in order to recieve special health care.
But most of the kids being taken in this situation were not actually sick. Strangely, the French adults had put bandages on them to create the impression that they were injured.
Back in France, host families were at an airport awaiting the arrival of the children. When they heard that the operation had been stopped, they were upset, and claimed that they had never intended to adopt the chlldren, and that the plan had all been in good intentions.
That could be. Perhaps the organization did just want to rescue these kids. But the fact is, they went about it all wrong. You can't just swoop into a country and fly away with 103 of its' children. And because this organization tried to, it makes other humanitarian organizations look less valid.
The 103 children are now being cared for in a children's shelter in Chad, with the support of UNICEF and the Red Cross.
What do you think about this? You may want to view this video I found, made by the French organization about their plans to bring children to France. Although I don't understand French, the video is pretty easy to understand, and it may help to see their point of view.
Let me know what you think!

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