EINDHOVEN, Netherlands (Reuters) - More than 100 Haitian children flew into the Netherlands on Thursday, their adoptions accelerated because of the devastating earthquake in their homeland.
All of the children arriving at the Eindhoven military airbase had been in the process of being adopted before the 7.0 magnitude earthquake on January 12, which killed up to 200,000 and reduced much of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince to rubble.
Many of the 106 children were carried in blankets by Dutch soldiers from the plane and across the tarmac to an awaiting bus before they were welcomed by their adoptive parents.
“About 2.5 hours prior to landing the children got food and lot of energy and it all became one big playground in the plane,” said Macky Schouten, director of the Dutch adoption foundation NAS which helped arrange the flight.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said foreign adoption of Haitian children should only be considered as a last resort.
It said children whose parents are dead or unaccounted for should if possible be reunited with their extended family.
That message was echoed by Joan Hansink at United Adoptees International. He said it was in children’s best interests to grow up in their own country.
Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin said he took the exceptional measure to accelerate adoptions because of the alarming situation in Haiti, with the consent of Haitian authorities.
Among the children coming to the Netherlands, nine have not yet been matched to a parent, but were allowed to enter the country because the orphanage they were staying at could no longer ensure their safety or provide essential care, he said.
Of the 106 children, 92 children are to be adopted by Dutch parents, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, and 14 are being adopted in Luxembourg.
Earlier this week, the United States said it would grant “humanitarian parole” on a case-by-case basis to adoptable children, which would let them enter the United States to receive needed care.
Additional reporting by Ben Berkowitz and Aaron Gray-Block; editing by Matthew Jones