Irish charity worker Maria O’Donovan with a Haitian orphan in Port-au-Prince.
By EDEL KENNEDY
Wednesday February 24 2010
AN Irishwoman has spoken of her lucky escape after being accused by an angry mob in Haiti of trying to illegally take orphans out of the country.
Maria O’Donovan was accompanying six children to the US when she was stopped at the airport in capital Port-au-Prince by a crowd of angry Haitians.
The 26-year-old, from Skibbereen, Co Cork, said that the situation on Saturday afternoon quickly became “very scary”. The police were called and the charity workers and terrified children were taken into custody.
She said that the adoption process had begun long before the earthquake hit and it was a totally different situation to the one where a group of 10 US Baptists were accused of illegally attempting to take 33 children out of the country.
“When we arrived at the airport we were surrounded by an angry mob of Haitian men,” she told the Irish Independent. “They started getting very aggressive and were shouting at us. It was very scary, especially for the kids.”
The six boys — who range in age from one to five-and-a-half — were due to fly to America under the auspices of Children of the Promise orphanage, which had arranged adoptive parents.
“They demanded to see our documents and although we weren’t technically arrested, we were taken into custody,” Ms O’Donovan, the charity’s field director, said.
Last night, a top Haitian official confirmed that the six orphans had been handed over to US officials.
Social Welfare agency chief Jeanne Bernard Pierre would not say exactly when her office transferred the children to the US Embassy, and officials did not return calls seeking confirmation.
A spokeswoman for US Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who intervened on behalf of the charity, said the children were cleared to depart Haiti by the required government agencies.
The spokeswoman also said she expected the group to leave last night.
– EDEL KENNEDY