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Crackdown on illegal baby trade in Marshall Islands

 Passengers board a United Airlines flight in Majuro. For the first time in late January, Marshall Islands Immigration officials detained several passengers at Majuro's international airport for questioning in relation to participation in illegal adoptions in the United States. [Photo: Giff Johnson]

Two Marshallese women caught up in an apparent illegal adoption scheme have been stopped at Majuro airport and prevented from travelling to the United States by authorities.

Our correspondent Giff Johnson said immigration authorities detained a suspected adoption agent for questioning along with the two women, one had a one month old baby and the other was pregnant.

Giff Johnson said the Immigration Department was tipped off by airline staff and the move signals a crackdown on illegal adoption of babies from the Marshall Islands to the United States.

"The ongoing travel of young women either who are pregnant or have young babies, who want to go up for adoption, obviously that's become a higher priority issue for authorities in the Marshall Islands to check into, so I think it should send a message that there's some concern about it on this end."

Giff Johnson said the detained man later left the Marshall Islands for Hawaii after being questioned.