Vol No: 83,
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Business News
Letters to the Editor

Blue watch


  • 103 Children nearly flown out of Chad
  • Was this the first trip?
  • Did France know they were coming?
  • Did families pay money for the Children?

IN what looks like a dramatic repeat of the capture and transfer of the over 20 million Africans to Europe in the era of the slave trade, 103 children, were stopped from boarding a plane destined for France by the government of Chad about a week ago.

At the time of going to press, ten Europeans were being held charged with kidnapping 21 girls and 81 boys aged between one and 10,with an intent of transporting them abroad.

The humanitarian agency Zoe's ark which had organised the trip however deny any wrong doing. The organisation on it's website claims it planned to remove 10,000 children orphans from the region because of the destabilisation effect of the Darfur War and said it was operating under international law. 

However, The International Committee of the Red Cross, Unicef, and the UNHCR, said in a joint statement that most of the "orphaned" children actually appeared to have at least one parent.

They also said the interviews they had had with the children "suggest that 85 of them come from villages in the border region between Chad and Sudan, in the area of Adre and Tine" of Chad.

As sentiments and issues relating to this incident gained international status The French foreign ministry joined the aid agencies in casting doubt on the claims by Zoe's Ark that the children were from Darfur.

But the nationalities of the children are still in question as thousands of people from Darfur have sought refuge in camps and villages in eastern Chad.

Meanwhile, Idriss Deby, the president of Chad, said on state television that the journalists and flight crew among the 17 people who were arrested should be freed after a judicial process.

He said: "I hope that Chadian justice can very quickly shed light on this affair and that the journalists and the air hostesses, and those not involved, can be freed without delay."

Three of the nine French who are detained are journalists, and seven Spaniards are known to be part of the flight crew.

Meanwhile a top U.N. humanitarian official in Sudan, Ameera Haq, condemned European aid workers who tried to take 103 African children from Chad to Europe, saying it contravened U.N. principles.

The French charity Zoe's Ark arranged the operation, telling European foster families that they were bringing orphans from Sudan's Darfur region, which borders Chad.

But U.N. and Chadian officials said most of the children were from the Chad side of the border with at least one family member they considered a parent.

"I strongly condemn the actions of the organisation ... attempting to remove children from Chad," Haq said in a statement to the press. "Such actions contravene all international laws and standards on the movement of children and infringe on the humanitarian principles we stand for as the United Nations."

Relations are tense between the Sudanese government and aid agencies involved in the world's largest aid operation, helping more than 4 million people in Darfur. Many in the aid community feel the actions of Zoe's Ark could make their work harder, increasing suspicion of foreigners working in Sudan.

"In Chad and in Sudan, the U.N. and national and international organisations have been effectively responding to humanitarian needs," Haq added.

Seven Europeans - four Spanish flight attendants and three French journalist over the weekend flew home after French President Nicolas Sarkozy has visited Chad to because of the issue.

In another development the Republic of Congo has suspended all international adoptions following the events in Chad as "a preventive measure," Emmanuel Aime Yoka, the justice minister said.

Yoka said the Chad incident occurred only a few days after 17 children from the Republic of Congo were adopted by Spanish families.

He said the two events were not connected, but said the coincidence of timing led the government to re-examine its policies.

The government is taking measures to verify the situation of the children in Spain, he said.


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