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French families arrive with adopted Haitians in time for Christmas

Video by Aurore Cloe DUPUIS

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-12-22

More than 100 Haitian orphans were brought to France by their adoptive parents on Tuesday, putting an end to a prolonged adoption ordeal just weeks before the first anniversary of Haiti’s devastating earthquake.

French families arrived in France with their adopted Haitian children on Wednesday, ending an adoption process that lasted several years and was delayed by the earthquake that ravaged the Caribbean nation nearly one year ago.

France’s new Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie was on hand with a media mob to welcome the families upon their return from Haiti.

“This case is closing many months of uncertainty,” said Maeva Bambuck, France 24’s correspondent in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. “These children have been in the process of adoption for well over two years, and some parents have been waiting for longer than that.”

Did change in French foreign minstry speed up process?

Dozens of parents arrived in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport on Wednesday with a first group of 113 children. A second flight was due to bring the remaining orphans on Thursday, in time for Christmas.

The children were given special consular documents in lieu of passports, allowing them to travel.

They were in the process of being adopted when a massive quake struck Haiti on January 12, killing over 250,000 people and causing adoptions to be delayed, some because their records were lost in the rubble.

About 700 other children whose files were found to be in order have already been brought to France.

Caught by surprise

The parents, who flew to Haiti to fetch the children on Tuesday, expressed surprise at how quickly the final phase of the adoption process occurred after many months of delays in the wake of the deadly quake.

One of the parents, Nadia Boulkessof, told AFP she was overwhelmed by the sudden turn of events. "I'm a little disoriented because this is happening so suddenly. I didn't have time to prepare," she said just hours before leaving Paris to bring home two-year-old Rose-Dania.

According to France 24 correspondent Maeva Bambuck, the parents are convinced that the recent change in leadership in France’s foreign ministry accelerated the adoption process. Last month Bernard Kouchner was replaced by Alliot-Marie in a government reshuffle.

Kouchner has been accused by a group representing the adopting parents of neglecting their stalled adoptions to focus on aid measures. This lack of political will, the group says, proved deadly: six children who were being adopted by French parents died during the last eleven months.

“The sense from the adoptive parents is that the former Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner was against the process, maybe fearing a repeat of the Zoe’s Ark adoption scandal,” the correspondent said.

In 2007, members of the French charity organization Zoe's Ark were charged by the government of Chad for child abduction. Despite the group’s claim that they believed the  children were orphans from Sudan, it was discovered most came from Chad and had living relatives.

In the case of Haiti, the French government decided to take the lead in finalising all the adoptions started there by French nationals. It has frozen any new adoptions pending reforms to adoption practices in the country.

Shortly after the January 12 earthquake struck, the Hague Conference of Private International Law urged caution in speeding up adoptions of Haitian children. “A humanitarian catastrophe, like this earthquake, should not be a reason to bypass the essential guarantees of an adoption,” the group said in a statement.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child also called attention to the special measures needed to protect Haitian children after the earthquake, highlighting the risk of “abductions masquerading as adoptions”.

Date created : 2010-12-22