Norway dismisses claims regarding Tamil children

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Norway has dismissed reports that Tamil children taken into the care of child welfare services in Oslo are not allowed to speak in their mother tongue.

Marte Lia Torskenaes, Media Spokesperson of the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo, also dismiss suggestions that children are removed from parents because they are being fed by hand or sleep in the same bed as their parents.

Earlier today the family members of some children who are in the care of Norwegian child welfare services, engaged in a peaceful, demonstration outside the Norwegian Embassy in Colombo.

Officials from the Embassy met with representatives of the protesters, the Embassy spokesperson said.

“The welfare, safety and the rights of the child are taken very seriously in Norway. Raising children is primarily the responsibility of parents but sometimes the child welfare service has to intervene if measures in the home are not sufficient to meet a child’s need. Placing a child in care is a serious step and can only be used when serious neglect or abuse has been documented, and where other measures have failed to improve the child’s situation. We categorically dismiss suggestions that children are removed from parents because they are being fed by hand or sleep in the same bed as their parents. Likewise, no child is removed from its parents because of hugging and kissing,” the Embassy spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said that Norwegian Child Welfare Act applies to all children in Norway, regardless of the child’s nationality, citizenship or cultural background.

“Allegations that Tamil children taken into care are not allowed to speak in their mother tongue are not correct. It is clearly stated in the Act that when a child is placed in care, due account shall be taken to ensuring continuity in the child’s upbringing, and of the child’s ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background,” the spokesperson said.

Norwegian authorities are regularly in contact with organizations representing minority groups to improve the mutual understanding in the relationship between the Child Welfare Service and the families involved. As part of these ongoing efforts there is a meeting scheduled next week between the Norwegian Child Welfare Service and Tamil organizations.

“All decisions to remove children from their parents’ custody are made by a family court based on an assessment from the child welfare services as well as the views of the parents. In this process the parents are entitled to free legal representation. The court’s ruling can be appealed to a district court. It is important to underline that child welfare interventions of this nature are rare and uniquely based on safeguarding the wellbeing of the children. The child welfare service and the family court must also always listen to the child’s opinion, before making a decision in a case,” the Embassy said. (Colombo Gazette)