Adopted Haitian children arrive in France for Christmas
A French government-chartered plane carrying 114 Haitian children and their adoptive French families arrived in Paris from Port-au-Prince Wednesday, in time to experience their first white Christmas.
The plane carrying 105 parents and the children flew in to a snow-dusted Charles de Gaulle airport, with a second flight due to make the same trip on Thursday despite expected flight cancellations caused by snowfall.
"I've come to get my two-year-old son, I'm very emotional," said a Frenchman in his 40s who asked not to be named.
A total of 318 adopted Haitian children are included in a special programme to bring them to France after disruptions caused by the devastating earthquake that ravaged the impoverished country nearly a year ago.
The children were all in the process of being adopted when a massive quake struck on January 12, killing over 250,000 people and causing adoptions to be delayed with some records lost in the rubble.
They were met in Paris by a medical team including 10 paediatricians who will give them a clean bill of health following their arrival from Haiti, where a cholera epidemic has killed over 2,500 people.
"A priori the children are in good health and come from places where no cholera has been detected," paediatrician Patrick Daoud told AFP.
"This is a general check-up to verify that the children are not incubating any infectious diseases."
Some doctors had flown out with the plane to the Caribbean nation, with the flight back timed to coincide with what would have been the infants' morning nap.
They were given special consular documents allowing them to go to France, despite not yet having French passports. About 700 other children whose files were found to be in order have already been brought to France.
France's ambassador to Haiti, Didier Le Bret, earlier described the emotional scenes in Port-au-Prince after the children met their new parents.
"It was very moving, most of the children were awaiting their parents and threw themselves into their arms," Le Bret told Europe 1 radio.
France took a leading role in the international aid effort after the earthquake, but associations representing adoptive families accused the government of being slow to act for the adopted children.
Parents said the process moved forward after the French foreign minister at the time of the earthquake, Bernard Kouchner, was replaced last month by Michele Alliot-Marie in a government reshuffle.
"Adoptions can only take place with guarantees for the children, the families, legal guarantees; and in a country as disorganized as Haiti after the quake, it was not easy," Alliot-Marie said.
© 2010 AFP