US Bans Child Adoption from Nepal

By Sudeshna Sarkar

Kathmandu, Aug 7 (IANS): The Barack Obama government has halted the adoption of abandoned children from Nepal indefinitely due to growing allegations of child trafficking and falsification of documents, often in connivance with government authorities.

The ban came into effect from Friday and would continue indefinitely. However, the US Department of State said American citizens could still adopt children who were not abandoned but whose natural parents were willing to relinquish them though DNA tests could be required to prove they were the real parents.

A joint statement issued by the US Department of State and US Citizenship and Immigration Services said the step was taken to protect the rights and interests of Nepali children and their families after field visits to orphanages and police departments showed that documents describing children up for adoption as abandoned were often unreliable.

"Civil documents, such as the children's birth certificates often include data that has been changed or fabricated," the statement said.

"Investigations of children reported to be found abandoned are routinely hindered by the unavailability of officials named in reports of abandonment. Police and orphanage officials often refuse to cooperate with consular officers' efforts to confirm information by comparing it with official police and orphanage records."

In one case, officials found the parents were actively searching for a child who had been put up for adoption as an abandoned child.

"Because the Department of State has concluded that the documentation presented for children reported abandoned in Nepal is unreliable and the general situation of non-cooperation with and even active hindrance of investigations, the US government can no longer reasonably determine whether a child documented as abandoned qualifies as an orphan," the statement said.

"Without reliable documentation, it is not possible for the United States government to process an orphan petition to completion."

The ban will immediately affect about 80 American families who had been seeking to adopt a child from Nepal and had been matched with Nepali children.

It was expected as last year, adoptions by Americans were reduced to only six cases while in 2006 the number was over 60.

A spate of reports in the media, in Nepal and abroad, graphically described how organisations and individuals were involved in obtaining children under false promises from parents who thought they were handing over their kids for a better education and would get them back.

The traffickers then projected the children as being orphans or abandoned at birth.

The US ban follows similar bans declared by Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Britain.

The US said it was urging the government of Nepal to implement sufficient protections to ensure the integrity of the adoption process.

It is urging Nepal to ratify and implement the Hague Adoption Convention, intended to protect the rights of the children and the families involved in inter-country adoption.


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