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Sunday, 8 March 2009


Informal translation from Spanish: EL PAIS

NGOs denounce irregularities in the delivery of children with local families
ANA ROJAS GABRIELA - New Delhi - 03/03/2009

On the death of her husband, Nirmala Thapa, Nepalese of 35 years, was forced to surrender her three youngest children to a juvenile center. Offering them care and educate them while she recovered from her economic strangulation. But, when she wanted to retrieve them, she discovered they had been given up for adoption to a Spanish family. It is one of the cases recorded by CWIN, a Nepalese NGO for the protection of children.

The parents say they were deceived in signing the papers

The adoptive parents argue that children lived in extreme poverty

"The woman is since three years trying to have her children returned, but it is very difficult: she signed a letter in which he gave the power, but she was deceived as she can not read," said Madhav Pradhan, director of CWIN. Pradhan says that her NGO Thapa helped to report the case to the District government in Kathmandu. Her organization has supported five other families to reclaim seven Nepalese children who have been adopted by Spaniards. In her view, "most of Nepalese international adoptions have been made illegally."

A study last year by UNICEF and the Swiss NGO Terre des Hommes (TDH) said that poor regulation resulted in the sale, abduction and trafficking of children, and that an industry was flourishing in which "the economic benefit counted more than the welfare of the child." Adoptive parents pay up to $ 25,000 (20,000 euros) per child. The director of a center recognizes that often there is deception "the poor in rural areas say they take their children to a boarding school in Kathmandu, instead they are given up for adoption by foreigners." Seven out of nine parents signed the letter in which they relinguished their children without understanding, the report says.

UNICEF and TDH are not sure what percentage of children taken to Spain was in this situation, but say that the irregularities are not unusual. " Up to 80% of the children could have stayed in Nepal "and reunited with relatives," said the delegate from TDH, Joseph L. Aguettant.

Spain is the country that adopted most Nepalese since 2000 (681 of the 2314 delivered). Of these, about 170 happened last year. Sources from the Spanish Embassy in New Delhi claim that their role has been to provide the passport for the child if the documents were in order.
Spaniards questioned by this newspaper say they knew that their adoptive children had parents, but that in Nepal families are so poor that they believe their children will be better off abroad. "My daughter is big enough to express her wishes and wants to be adopted: their recently widowed mother could not keep all her children," said José Luis (assumed name). Mary (another nickname) has learned about the parents of her daughter when at the Ministry of Justice to declare for the second time they wanted to give the child up for adoption. "It was a poor family that was relatively calm and happy that their child could be raised in better conditions. Everything has been transparent," he says. Spaniards consulted agree on the propriety of the process. Also that the ideal is that the parents could stay with their children, but that it is "utopian" in such a poor country.

But child rights advocates say the opposite: "It's very arrogant to think that just because we are rich we will provide a better future. Children are always better with their family and if not, in their country. We are not opposed to international adoption, but it must be the last resort, "said the representative of TdH. This coincides with opinion of the Unicef representative in Nepal, Joanne Doucet. "We must promote domestic adoption," she says. However, only 4% of the children are placed with local families. The Secretary of the Ministry of Women and Children does not understand the position of UNICEF and TDH: "Many children will be better off," she says.

Meanwhile, children in schools and orphanages in Nepal there are about 15,000 children, many of whom have parents, and arrived there by fraud or coercion. Irregularities increased since 2000, when orphanages lost their monopoly and workers created their own juvenile business, "says the manager of TDH. In these places the children live in appalling conditions.

As concerning the young Nepalese who are in Spain and "who are not orphans in the strict sense of the word," experts believe that there is very little chance of them returning to their country. "Now it's too late. After the adoption has been declared they are Spanish citizens," laments the delegate from TDH.


To give children in adoption to foreigners is a good business for the orphanages in Nepal. According to conservative figures from Unicef and the Swiss NGO TdH, these practices bring the centers about two million dollars (1.5 million euros) in 2006 alone. And it could be much more, as the centers pressure adoptive parents to give more money after they grew fond of the children.

Spaniards interviewed denied having been extorted. "I did not see anything shady in Nepal, but, as elsewhere, there could be bad people that enrich themselves with this situation. The fault lies with the families who will take forward their checkbook," says one adoptive mother.

Since January this year, the Government of Nepal has introduced new regulations for the process as a result of pressure from workers for children's rights. Now children can only be given up for adoption through registered centres, and the Ministry of Women and Children assigns children to families. Still, advocates for the rights of children are pessimistic. "The situation is uncertain: the centers that were trafficking are still operating to cater for children and are accredited," said the delegate of Nepal TDH, Joseph L. Aguettant.

Another serious concern is that "the directors of the centers are the ones who decide which children are adoptable and are the recipients of the money: so it is convenient for them to consider many children as orphans and to give them for international adoption," says Joanne Doucet, Unicef.

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