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US citizens arrested after trying to remove children from Haiti

[JURIST] Haitian authorities confirmed Sunday that 10 US citizens have been arrested after attempting to bus 33 children across the border into the neighboring Dominican Republic. Haitian Social Affairs Minister Yves Christallin said that a total of 12 people were arrested [AP report] Friday, including the 10 Americans and two Haitians. The Idaho-based Baptist group New Life Children's Refuge [BBC profile] planned to take 100 Haitian orphans across the border to an orphanage in the resort town of Cabarete as part of the "Haitian Orphan Rescue Mission." Christallin, however, characterized the actions as abduction, and police chief Mario Andresol said that the Americans were awaiting a hearing [Al Jazeera report] before a judge in Port-au-Prince Monday on charges of violating Haiti's immigration laws. The group claims to have obtained the children from the care of Jean Sanbil of the Sharing Jesus Ministries. Haitian authorities have imposed new requirements for adoptions since the earthquake, amid growing fears of child trafficking. The government now requires Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive [BBC profile] to personally authorize [Miami Herald report] the departure of any child.

Last week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] said that strengthening human rights is an integral part [JURIST report] of the rebuilding process in Haiti. In her remarks, Pillay mentioned the role that the inhumane living conditions may have had in the high casualty numbers resulting from the January 12 earthquake [NYT backgrounder; JURIST news archive], placing blame on the regime of Francois Duvalier [BBC profile] for those conditions. Last month, US President Barack Obama signed a bill [JURIST report] that will allow US citizens to claim donations to Haitian relief efforts as a deduction on their 2009 tax returns. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano [official profile] announced that Haitian nationals present in the US before the earthquake will be given temporary protected status and will not be deported for the next 18 months, but Haitian refugees who arrive in the US illegally will be sent back to their home country [JURIST reports]. The US has also granted humanitarian parole to Haitian orphans [JURIST report] to allow them to enter the US for medical treatment. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake caused massive damage to property and infrastructure in Haiti, and the death toll has been estimated at 150,000.

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