A CHESTER family was deported from Morocco and forced to leave their adopted son behind after being accused of trying to convert children to Christianity at an orphanage.
They were among a group of parents from all over the world told to go from the Village Of Hope orphanage, near Ain Leuh, which has cared for Moroccan children for the past 10 years.
The Moroccan authorities accused them of proselytism – converting children from one faith to another – which is illegal in the North Africa country.
The Dickinson family, of Chester, who were part of the deported group, last night appealed to be reunited with their adopted son, aged just 20 months.
Colin and Fiona Dickinson are now trying to find out what has happened to Rayane since they left.
They and their natural children are currently staying with family in Liverpool.
Mrs Dickinson said she had packed a few personal items for the family – including their daughters Megan, 16, and Grace, six months – then took Rayane to a neighbouring house.
She said: “He is too young to understand what was happening.
“One of the most heartbreaking things is that with the older children you can explain, but for him he was just playing with some other children, which in a way is a nice memory.
“But you know he will ask where you are the next morning and the next night, and he will be devastated because he will not know where Mummy has gone.”
Mr Dickinson, who was involved in the project for eight years, said their deportation on March 8 came as a shock after several days of questioning during an inspection of the orphanage by Moroccan authorities.
He said: “The impression we got from them was that the work we were doing was good and they almost felt sorry asking us these questions.
“Then we were gathered together and told we were being expelled.”
Mr Dickinson said at first they thought they had two or three days to prepare, but instead they were put on a bus at 8pm that day and taken to the airport.
“We have had Rayane since the day he was born. We have had vague rumours about the children, and believe they may still be at there.”
Mark Johnston, of Wirral, is one of the international trustees of the Village of Hope.
He insisted no-one was trying to force Christianity on Moroccan children.
He said: “The Village of Hope has passed every inspection over the last 10 years, in terms of education, care of the children, Islamic studies.
“It’s not a traditional orphanage – volunteer parents have to commit for 20 years. But within hours they were put on a plane and deported. The level of trauma is just terrible, for children and parents.”
A spokeswoman for the Moroccan Embassy said: “Following numerous complaints from the local population, a thorough investigation (questioning, search of premises…) was undertaken by the relevant authorities.
“They uncovered overwhelming evidence these expatriates were engaging in proselytism activities directed at under-age children, including evangelical flyers, CDs and children’s books.
“The expatriate staff at the Village of Hope were not deported for their religious beliefs, but rather because they engaged in proselytism activities in an orphanage, which is illegal under Moroccan law.”