Haitian authorities have charged ten American Baptist missionaries for attempting to take thirty-three Haitian children across the Haitian-Dominican border. The ten American missionaries have been formally charged with kidnapping and criminal association. Under Haitian law, anyone charged with attempting to kidnap a child is not eligible for bail. If convicted of kidnapping, the American missionaries could face up to a lifetime of prison; the criminal association charge could lead to sentence of three to nine years in prison.
The American missionaries did not have government approval to take the Haitian children across the border. The missionaries lacked the proper paperwork, and the children did not have passports to leave the country.
Several missionaries said they believed the children to be orphans. Group leader Laura Silsby said her group was trying to take the orphans to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. Silsby told the Associated Press that most of the children had been delivered by distant relatives, while others came from orphanages that had been destroyed by the earthquake.
However, this conflicts with the version of events offered by the children’s parents.
The parents state that a missionary member had convened a group of approximately 500 people in their small town and explained to them that the group wanted to take their children into the Dominican Republic, where they would feed, clothe, and educate them. Several parents said they had willingly given their children to the missionaries who had promised a better life for them and said they could see their children whenever they wished. Villagers said they were not told their children were being offered for adoption.