Authorities in Chad have charged 16 French and Spanish nationals with abduction and fraud after they tried to fly more than a hundred African children to Europe. The accused include workers for a French charity called Zoe’s Ark, which says it intended to help the children by offering them a better life. The children, all believed to be orphans, were due to be housed by host families who paid the group several thousands of euros each.
In a video shot before the group were arrested last Thursday, members of Zoe’s Ark are questioned about the legality of their actions. One of them denies smuggling the children out of Sudan illegally, saying they were brought to us. “If you follow the rules, people die,” he adds. Another rejects claims the children would be better off staying put.
The children allegedly come from the Chad-Sudan border area where hundreds of thousands of people have taken refugee from fighting in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region. The incident threatens to complicate relations between France and its former colony as a predominantly French EU peacekeeping force prepares to deploy in eastern Chad, one of Africa’s most violent regions.