Sri Lankan baby farms: Minister admits illegal adoption trade

Sri Lankan authorities have admitted in a Dutch documentary that thousands of babies born there were fraudulently sold for adoption abroad in the 1980s, the BBC reported.

Up to 11,000 children could have been sold to Europe, with both parties being given fake documents.

Some were reportedly born into “baby farms” that sold children to the west.

Sri Lanka’s health minister told the Dutch current affairs programme Zembla he would set up a DNA database to help children find their birth mothers.

About 4,000 children are thought to be have been relocated to families in the Netherlands, with others going to other European countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the UK.

One adoptee called Rowan van Veelen, told the BBC earlier this year that he had travelled back to Sri Lanka to try and find his birth mother 27 years on.

He was part of a Netherlands-based social media network that tried to match Sri Lankan birth mothers to their estranged adopted children.

“The adopted children and the mothers got the wrong information, which makes it really hard,” he explained.

“We want to make a DNA bank with all adopted children from [the] Netherlands who can search if we have siblings there.

“Then we could ask other countries like Sweden, Denmark and Germany to give their DNA also in the bank too.”

The Dutch filmmakers from Zembla started looking into the allegations after the Dutch Council for the Administration of Criminal Justice and Protection of Juveniles advised the government in November 2016 to considering banning foreign adoptions because of unethical practices in some of the children’s origin countries.

Norbert Reinjens, a researcher for Zembla, told the BBC that they had found evidence that all kind of documents were falsified by adoption authorities – including birth certificates, the names of children and the identity of biological parents.

“In some institutions there were ‘acting mothers’ who were paid to pretend to be the biological parents while handing them over,” he said.

In the documentary locals allege that some hospital workers worked alongside the networks.

Some new mothers at a hospital in Matugama, western Sri Lanka, were reportedly told their children had died, when they were actually sold abroad for adoption.

One woman told the documentary makers she was paid 2,000 rupees (£23; $30) by someone connected to the hospital to act as a baby’s mother.

Sri Lanka temporarily banned intra-country adoptions in 1987 when one “baby farm” was raided, and 20 newborns were found inside.

Reports from the time said the women there were being held in “prisonlike conditions”, surrounded by a 10 ft (3m) wall.

Sri Lankan Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne denied the government held any responsibility or knowledge of the networks.

But in an interview with the documentary makers he said he would look into setting up a special office to try and match the children involved.

“It is very wrong, it is against human rights of those families – so that has to be investigated. I myself will take the responsibility for that investigation.”

One mother, Renuka Abeysinghe, told the BBC that her daughter was taken in 1992.

“I will be very happy if I meet her again. I gave her for adoption because we were poor and we didn’t have a way to live.

“They told me they took her to Germany but we had no information after that.”

Another, Ms Sirimavathi said she was alone when she gave up her daughter.

“I don’t have parents, and all my close relatives were abroad when I got my child. I didn’t have anyone. I didn’t have a place to stay, ” she said.

“I cried a lot when giving away the baby, still I am crying.

“My wish is to see her once, I don’t want anything from her.”

The Dutch State Secretary for Security and Justice confirmed to Zembla he was looking into the allegations.


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