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Swiss authorities turned a blind eye to illegal adoption from Sri Lanka - report

A report conducted by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) under the delegation of Switzerland's Federal Office of Justice and Police was released, revealing that Swiss authorities were aware of “irregularities in adoptions from Sri Lanka” between the 1970s and 1980s, during which over 700 children were adopted into the country.

Up to 11,000 children from across Sri Lanka were supposedly given up for adoption, oftentimes illegally, in various European countries through an internationally organised network between the1970s and 1980s. It has been reported that many of these children were adopted by western couples using fake identities according to Swissinfo.ch. "The declarations of consent of the biological parents were missing in the documents, the entry permits contained falsified data about the children, too few of the future adoptive parents were examined in detail with regard to their abilities, and children had poor legal representation during the two-year foster care relationship because no guardian had been appointed to them," it added. 

The ZHAW study was instigated following a Dutch television programme that shed light on the “widespread child trafficking between Sri Lanka and several European countries”, aired in 2017.

Many of the children that were illegally adopted from "baby farms" in which they were kept in "precarious conditions", are now in search of their birth parents.

Romy Lalitha Walcher told Swiss television that the situation "makes me mad that people didn't ask more questions about it".

Sarah Ramani Eichi, founder of the "Back to Roots" association said, "It's like a pain, like an ancient wound... I was taken away from her without giving her the chance to say goodbye".

Although Swiss authorities are said to have been aware of these cases of child trafficking by the end of 1981, they did not bring an end to the illegal adoptions until 1997. One of the authors of the report, Professor Nadja Ramsauer of ZHAW stated that the Swiss Federal authorities split responsibilities between different bodies and made “entry procedures easy,” in favour of adoption agencies.

It was also noted that “cantons were also lax in their supervisory role,” allowing for child placement agencies to operate without meeting legal requirements, disregarding all laws in relation to international adoptions. 

Ramsauer told Swissinfo.ch: ”It was an interplay of various federal authorities, each of which was responsible for a part of the problem. The most important of these were the Federal Office for Foreigners' Affairs (now the State Secretariat for Migration), the Federal Office of Justice and the Swiss embassy in Colombo.”

See more from Swissinfo.ch here.