Three Californian children holding the United States passports will be deported to Zimbabwe at the end of April.

Their parents  Krystal Chilson and Johnathan Curle decided to move to Zimbabwe to do missionary work after they got married in the 1990s. Over time, the couple had several children and frequently traveled between Zimbabwe and the United States. Two of their children were born in the US, another was born in Zimbabwe but is a US citizen.

In this case it doesn’t matter the three children are all US citizens. According to the International Hague Treaty what matters is where the children have spent the majority of their lives, which in this case is Zimbabwe. 

The 9-, 11-, and 13-year-olds will all be sent back to be with their father by the end of April. Their aunt Shari Marshall said, tears in her eyes, “I think it’s adding insult to injury. You go to help someone. You go to help these starving kids and orphans and  all of a sudden you find yourself with no protection. I don’t understand.”

The treaty was adopted in 1993. According to the treaty’s website it’s goal is “to protect the rights of the children, birth parents, and adoptive parents involved in intercountry adoption and prevent child-trafficking, or abuses.” “The Hague Treaty is sketchy, it’s unclear, it’s left up for each judge to decide what they think it means,” says Marshall. 

The family said the kids are looking forward to seeing their dad, but haven’t been told when or if they’ll return to the US. Marshall said her family worries about unsafe living conditions in Zimbabwe. 

An attorney for Johnathan Curle said in a statement, “The court did not make the decision to return the children to Zimbabwe lightly. It had the benefit of hearing evidence at a day-long trial, and issued its decision in a carefully written 15-page ruling that weighed evidence and analyzed the law. There was no omitted evidence of mistakes. It is time for the Curle children to return to Zimbabwe.” The statement continued that the children have lived in Zimbabwe for 10 years and there’s no threat or evidence the children would suffer there.

“They want to see their dad. But the unknowns, and they’re not being told when they will see their mom is scary for them,” said Marshall.

 If you would like to learn more there is a Facebook page called “Help The Curles.”