20 sep. 2017
28 mei 2019
Quelque 1 500 Français ont été adoptés au Sri Lanka pendant les années 1980, dont certains ont été victimes d’un trafic d’enfants. Devenus adultes, ils veulent connaître la vérité. “Envoyé spécial” a suivi Champika et Rohan, deux trentenaires dans leur quête d’identité.
Quelque 1 500 Français ont été adoptés au Sri Lanka pendant les années 1980. Tous ne le savent pas, mais ils ont peut-être été victimes d’un trafic d’enfants. A l’époque, le flou juridique entourant les adoptions a permis à certains intermédiaires peu scrupuleux de s’enrichir.
“Fermes à bébés”, vols de nourrissons à la maternité…
Certains ont même créé des “fermes à bébés” : des établissements dans lesquels des mères sri lankaises démunies ont été poussées à donner ou à vendre leur progéniture. Pire, certaines ont vu leur nouveau-né volé à l’hôpital.
Devenus adultes, certains de ces enfants veulent aujourd’hui connaître la vérité, aussi difficile puisse-t-elle être. De la France au Sri Lanka, l’équipe d'”Envoyé spécial” a suivi deux trentenaires, Champika et Rohan, dans leur quête d’identité.
Un reportage de Nicolas Bertrand, Guillaume Marque et Marion Giraud
5 okt. 2017
The existence of so-called ‘baby farms’ was the most important reason for the Sri Lankan government to suspend intercountry adoption in 1987. At these baby farms, women were impregnated to meet the demand for adoptive children. This is confirmed by Sri Lanka’s Minister of Health, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, in response to the investigation by ZEMBLA. “There were a lot of baby farms back then,” says the minister. “They collected the babies there and sold them to foreigners for adoption.” This is the first time the Sri Lankan government admits the existence of ‘baby farms’. Stories of ‘baby farms’ had previously been dismissed as rumours.
In response to the ZEMBLA findings, Sri Lanka will launch an investigation into the adoption fraud involving thousands of children who were brought from Sri Lanka to the Netherlands during the 1980s. Minister Senaratne also takes the initiative to establish a DNA databank, which children as well as parents can use to search for relatives.
Last May, in the broadcast of ‘Adoptiebedrog’ (Adoption Fraud), ZEMBLA revealed that adoption records of children adopted from Sri Lanka to the Netherlands during the 1980s had been falsified on a large scale. Mothers who gave their child up for adoption turn out not to be their biological mothers. Siblings of adoptive children were never mentioned, travel documents were given new dates of birth filled in manually.
ZEMBLA also discovered that children had been sold for adoption from a hospital in Matugama. This was based on statements from nurses working at the hospital. ZEMBLA also speaks with a mother, whose baby had allegedly passed away shortly after birth, according to the doctors. She says a family member saw a doctor carrying the infant out of the hospital alive.
Subsequently, these babies were given up for adoption by so-called ‘acting mothers’. Acting mothers were women who were paid to pretend to be the mothers of children put up for adoption. ZEMBLA spoke with one of the ‘acting mothers’. She talks about giving a child up for adoption that wasn’t hers. When being asked who put her up to pretending to be an ‘acting mother’ she says: “Someone connected to the hospital. (…) They asked me to act as a mother. Then they gave me 2,000 rupees.”
Sri Lanka investigates adoption fraud
Sri Lankan minister Senaratne does not take the findings lightly: “The government (of Sri Lanka, ed.) should take this very seriously. We will have to set up a special agency where parents and children can have their DNA tested. This provides an easy method of finding out if it is the real mother or not. I will take the initiative for this.”
ZEMBLA also discovered that a small group of lawyers, medical staff and employees then working for the Sri Lankan child protection bureau were responsible for the adoption fraud. In fact, doctors and nurses acted as intermediaries for Western adoption agencies.
Minister Senaratne stated he will look into the fraud: “It happened in an illegal manner, it’s very wrong. It violates the human rights of these families. This needs to be looked into.”
When asked, State Secretary Dijkhoff, who is responsible for intercountry adoptions in the Netherlands, announced that he “is currently investigating who played which part and who were responsible at the time, how everything was monitored and which organisations and persons were involved in general.”
Dijkhoff also writes: “I will also talk to a few organisations involved (UAI, FIOM) and I will approach the Sri Lankan authorities. Based on that, I will consider if the Dutch government should be involved in this matter.”
‘Stichting Flash’ switched babies
ZEMBLA finds a letter from former adoption agency ‘Stichting Flash’ from 2001, addressed to a Flash employee in Sri Lanka. The letter describes how one baby from a pair of twins that were up for adoption had died and a different infant was adopted to the Netherlands using the name of the deceased child.
The letter includes: “The baby died. The lawyer (…) asks the adoptive parents not to cry and suggests to use the papers of the deceased child to give another orphan the opportunity to have a better life. The adoptive parents discussed this with the chairman of Flash.”
When asked, a former board member of ‘Stichting Flash’ and a former employee told ZEMBLA that they do not recollect ever having seen this letter.
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Sri Lanka: The basics
- Sri Lanka is an island nation off southern India: It won independence from British rule in 1948. Three ethnic groups – Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim – make up 99% of the country’s 22 million population.
- One family of brothers has dominated for years: Mahinda Rajapaksa became a hero among the majority Sinhalese in 2009 when his government defeated Tamil separatist rebels after years of bitter and bloody civil war. His brother Gotabaya, who was defence secretary at the time, is the current president but says he is standing down.
- Presidential powers: The president is the head of state, government and the military in Sri Lanka but does share a lot of executive responsibilities with the prime minister, who heads up the ruling party in parliament.
- Now an economic crisis has led to fury on the streets: Soaring inflation has meant some foods, medication and fuel are in short supply, there are rolling blackouts and ordinary people have taken to the streets in anger with many blaming the Rajapaksa family and their government for the situation.
16 mei 2022
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