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Children taken by US church group 'have families'

The Haitian social affairs minister said the police have arrested five men and five women with US passports as well as two Haitians as they tried to cross into the Dominican Republic with more than 30 children.


Spain said it will provide Haiti with a DNA testing system to help reunite lost children with their families, as concerns grow over the trafficking of minors in the aftermath of the quake.

Haitian officials will take saliva or blood samples from minors separated from their families in the disaster, as well as from parents who have reported missing children, Spain's foreign ministry said in a statement.

The genetic testing system developed by the organisation DNA-Prokids has already helped identify more than 230 victims of child trafficking in 12 countries, said the statement.

AFP - Most of the 33 children taken by a US church group in an alleged attempt to move them out of Haiti "have family" that survived the earthquake, a care center chief said Sunday.

Patricia Vargas, regional director of the SOS Children's Village, where the children are being cared for, told AFP that officials at the Haitian Institute of Social Welfare told her "most of the kids have family."

According to Vargas' conversation with older children of the group, above seven years old, some of the youngsters "say their parents are alive, and some of them gave us an address and phone numbers," she said.

The children have been taken in by the charity's center in the town of Croix des Bouquets, west of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. The NGO care center is not an orphanage and does not give children up for adoption.

At least one of the children is being treated in hospital for malnutrition, said Vargas.

"We couldn't even determinate her age, but (they) could be seven months old," said Vargas, who heads SOS operations in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The children "were transferred to us yesterday," she said, adding that the care center is already sheltering 240 children.

SOS describes itself as the world's largest charity dedicated to orphaned and abandoned children, and has been working in Haiti for seven years.

The US embassy said here Sunday that ten US citizens were being held for "alleged violations of Haitian laws related to immigration."

Earlier Haitian Social Affairs Minister Yves Christallin said the police arrested five men and five women with US passports in a case that centers on an Idaho-based church group.

"This is an abduction, not an adoption," he said, identifying the Americans as members of a charity called New Life Children's Refuge.

The Haitian government has tightened its travel restrictions for children in the country, and said the prime minister will for the time being have to sign off on every minor's departure abroad.

A man identified as the father of one of the detained Americans told CNN that his daughter's and her fellow church members' sole aim was to provide aid and relief to needy Haitian orphans.

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