Seventeen European nationals being held in Chad, suspected of child trafficking, could be charged later today. They include six French charity workers, three French journalists, seven Spanish air crew and a Belgian pilot. They were all detained as they tried to fly 103 children out of the country to France. They claim they were saving Darfur refugees. But the President of Chad, Idriss Deby Itno, believes they had other motives. “Were they to be sold to a paedophile ring? For me it’s obvious.”
French Foreign Affairs junior minister, Rama Yade, is in Chad, even though her government has said the planned flight would have been illegal and irresponsible. The French charity, Zoe’s Ark, intended to declare the children, aged between one and 10 years, as unaccompanied minors on their arrival in France, having already arranged families for them.
The charity’s lawyer, Gilbert Collard, rebuts any accusations of more sinister intentions: “No one can believe, really, as the president said, that the welcoming families were part of a paedophile ring, just as one can’t believe there is an organ trafficking ring behind this. We believe these comments are politically motivated.”
Many of the children have said they are from the border area between Chad and the Darfur region of Sudan, where the exact border is very unclear. The media in Chad have predicted the 17 could be sentenced to 20 years forced labour.