An attempt to separate more than 100 young Chadian children from their parents and then take them to France for adoption was an “illegal and totally irresponsible move,” the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today.
UNICEF spokesperson Veronique Taveau told journalists in Geneva that the agency and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are now helping to provide relief to the 103 children, who were prevented from flying out of the country by Chadian authorities in the eastern town of Abeche yesterday.
Ms. Taveau said UNICEF had distributed high-protein biscuits and toys to the children, while investigations continue in a bid to find the family members of the children, who range in age from one to eight years old.
She stressed that what happened had violated international rules, such as The Hague Convention on international adoption and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
When children are separated from their parents and their communities through natural catastrophes or armed conflicts, it should not be assumed that they no longer have a close relative living, she said.
Ms. Taveau said the case was not an isolated incident but one that was highly visible because of the size of the group of children.
Tracing the families of the children will be extremely difficult, she added, because of the children’s ages and the fact that they have no identifying papers. It was also not clear yet whether some children may originate from Sudan.