Haiti orphans land in Belgium amid adoption disquiet
Thirteen orphans from Haiti, who were due to be adopted before the devastating earthquake thought to have killed 150,000 people, landed in Belgium late Monday.
BRUSSELS - Belgian defence ministry officials said a military aircraft landed at 6:50 pm (1750 GMT) at the Melsbroeck military airstrip near Brussels, as the country implemented accelerated bureaucratic procedures to sign off the adoptions.
The children were joined by 33 Belgian emergency volunteers plus six Belgian nationals and two French citizens who were in Haiti when the massive quake struck on January 12.
The children were to be met by their new families, by the Red Cross and by adoption authorities, Belgium's foreign ministry said earlier.
They join a girl born in 2004 who was brought to her new country last week.
Several countries including Belgium are fast-tracking adoption procedures already under way, with France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States also cutting red tape.
However, child protection groups fear the Haitian state's effective collapse could lead to an increase in human trafficking or in children suffering from losing all contact with Haitian culture and their surviving relatives.
A European Commission spokesman on Monday urged caution before implementing accelerated procedures.
United Nations officials said would-be adoptive parents should not take Haitian children out of the country unless their papers have been signed by both the Haitian prime minister and the UN.
However, authorities in Brussels stressed that they "knew before the quake, for the 14 children concerned, that they could be adopted, that they were indeed orphans."
A spokesman for the French-speaking community in Brussels said measures taken to speed up procedures included simplifying Belgian paperwork and waiving the usual requirement for adopting families to visit Haiti.
New adoption applications from post-quake Haiti will, however, be put on hold for several months to allow Port-au-Prince officials as much time as possible to double-check children's status.
Belgian authorities said they wanted to learn lessons from the Indian Ocean Boxing Day tsunami of 2004, where children initially thought to have been orphaned could ultimately be taken in by family members.AFP/Expatica