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Rescued ‘orphans’ reunited with parents

Some of the 33 Haitian children rescued from an alleged kidnapping by Americans who claimed to be missionaries in the aftermath of the earthquake, have been reunited with their parents. “The parents now are coming to the village to reclaim their children,” said Heather Paul, the chief executive of SOS Children's Villages US branch, which runs a Port-au-Prince orphanage where the children are staying. “We already hear that many are saying that we (they) have parents,” she told the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Ten members of a separate US group called New Life Children's Refuge attempted to take the children, labelled as orphans, across the Haitian border to the Dominican Republic last weekend. The 10 are currently in custody and may be charged with child trafficking. The children, aged between two months and 14 year-sold, were in poor health while in the care of the Baptist group. "They weren't well-dressed, they were dehydrated. They needed medical assistance," said Ms Paul. "I think this is proof positive for all those people around the world who would like to adopt Haitian children, that we must wait on the right registration," she said.

Patricia Vargas, the regional director of SOS Children answered a call from Haitian authorities to meet the children, who were returned from the border with the neighbouring Dominican Republic, on Saturday. "The majority of these children have families. Some of the older ones said their parents are alive, and some gave an address and phone numbers," said Vargas. The Americans said they were acting with good intentions and were trying to rescue the children they believed were orphans from a reputable orphanage. However, nearly half of the children who survived the January quake, which killed 170,000, are believed to have at least one living parent. The Americans claim they did not know they needed official permission to remove the children.

Laura Silsby, one of the 10 detained and co-founder of the New Life Children's Refuge said: "We came here literally to just help the children. Our intentions were good," she told Radio France International. "We wanted to help those who lost parents in the quake or were abandoned."  But SOS Children’s Heather Paul said: "I don't know all the facts, but if they were good intentions, they're certainly gone awry," she said. The Americans may have to be tried in America because the Haitian justice system has been crippled by the earthquake.

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children