- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
It’s a little bit hard to understand the mindset of people like the 10 U.S. missionaries arrested in Haiti on Friday, who don’t see the problem with swooping into a disaster area and trying to transport 30 children out of a country without any sort of documentation or legal permission. Reading their justifications, the presumptuousness is pretty sickening:
The missionaries, who admit they had no documents, approvals or passports for the Haitian infants, insist they just wanted to help them by taking them over the border to an orphanage they were establishing in the Dominican Republic.
"They really didn’t have any paperwork … I did not understand that that would really be required," the leader of the arrested group, Laura Silsby, told CNN.
She vehemently denied any intention of kidnapping or trafficking the children, which include a baby and children up to 12 years old. "We literally all gave up everything we had, you know, income, and used our own funds to come here and help these children," Silsby said.
"God is the one who called us to come here and we just really believed that this was his purpose," said Carla Thompson, another member of the group, which called itself the New Life Children’s Refuge.
Even assuming that these people had the best of intentions, (which, given that one girl apparently told police, "I am not an orphan. I still have my parents" and thought her mother had arranged a vaction for her, is still very much an assumption) I find it pretty disturbing that some Americans feel entirely justified in flying to third world countries and taking children. The urge to "do something" when children are suffering is of course great, but so is the risk of corruption, abuse and trafficking.
As E.J. Graff skillfully documented in her FP piece "The Lie We Love," the combination of well-meaning westerners and with baby "producers" looking to make a buck can have heart-breakingly tragic consequences. Chaos on the scale of Haiti and the clumsy interventions of foreigners who feel entitled take matters into their own hands only exacerbates the situation.