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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 October 2007, 18:30 GMT
'We are not child traffickers'
French citizen Christine Peligat spoke to the BBC's Europe Today about being embroiled in the Chad child scandal.

Her husband Alain Peligat is one of the nine French citizens under arrest in Chad after being charged with abduction and fraud. The couple are both volunteers for Zoe's Ark - the charity alleged to have tried to smuggle more than 100 children from the Chadian town of Abeche to France - and were expecting to take one of the children.

Christine Peligat
Christine Peligat is a volunteer for Zoe's Ark and was to adopt a child

Q: How difficult is it for you being there [in Paris] with very little information?

Christine Peligat: Well, we have a good team here. I am quite strong. I am very lucky because I have six children, and they are my support.

Q: The charity has taken a terrible battering over the last few days, a terrible picture has been painted of what the charity was trying to do in Chad. Can you explain what it is that your husband the rest of the team were doing there?

Christine Peligat: They were rescuing children from Sudan's Darfur region. And the only thing they wanted is to give these children a better life. That's it. This is the only aim of this operation.

Q: But what were they going to do with the children? They were going to take them back to France?

Christine Peligat: Yes, and find some families so that they can have these children. It was not and some people have said that we were like an organisation for adoption. That's not true. The first thing that we wanted was to save children.

Q: But the problem with that is, that in the days since people from the charity have admitted that perhaps not all these children are orphans, and perhaps not all of them are from Sudan, that some of them may perhaps be from Chad.

Children playing in an orphanage at Abeche, Chad
The children are not being treated for any serious illnesses or injuries

Christine Peligat: All I can say about this is that we should have been brought back 309 children from Darfur to France and if, as you know there were only 103 children it is because it took a long, long time to check the papers concerning the children and when we were not sure about the origins of the children who were not on the programme - we had to verify everything. It was very, very hard to do but it was unbelievable for us to take the children who had brothers or sisters or family...

Q: But there's another problem with that because the French government, the Chadian government, the UN Children's Fund and the UN Refugee Agency - all very reputable organisations - are all saying the charity did not have permission to take these children out of the country. Now, any charity cannot simply go to a country and airlift children, no matter what the situation is.

Christine Peligat: Well, we have some papers that were confiscated by the Chadian government, the flight was authorised...

Q: Authorised by whom?

Christine Peligat: By the government.

Q: So they were aware that this flight was taking place?

Christine Peligat: Yes.

Q: But they say that they did not give permission to take the children out of the country.

Christine Peligat: No but it is because we did ask at the airport but not at the ministry, I'm not sure about that. But there was just someone who didn't appreciate that he wasn't told directly. But everything was done at the airport.

Map showing Chad and Sudan

Q: You were hoping to take one of these children, other families in France were also hoping for that. Did you pay any money? Did any of the families pay any money in exchange for these children?

Christine Peligat: We gave a donation.

Q: Of how much?

Christine Peligat: How much? Well, it depends on what you could give. Some people didn't give as much money.

Q: Who did you make the donation to?

Christine Peligat: To the Zoe's Ark. And the money was just to pay, for example, all the medical supplies - the return flight for the children.

Q: What do you say then to those people who will look at money exchanging hands, the fact that no permission was given to even take these children out of the country. You and others are being excused of trafficking these children, what do you say to that?

Christine Peligat: No, no, no, no. For us it is totally unbelievable. All we wanted to do was save children. There was no trafficking. We are not child traffickers. I know most of the team, and my husband - all his life has been a fight for children.

French charity workers are held handcuffed


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