Nepal admits half its orphanages 'selling' children for adoption by couples abroad

Date: 2007-03-13

Orphanages in 'children for sale' racket

Thomas Bell

The Nepalese government yesterday admitted that half of the country's 500 orphanages are involved in the illegal "sale" of children to foreign couples.

While there are many legitimate adoptions of Nepalese children each year, a Daily Telegraph investigation revealed on Saturday that corrupt middle-men and well-connected officials have been exploiting foreign couples, orphanages and the local parents who give up their children because they cannot afford to raise them.

In one case, a father handed his son to an orphanage to find six months later that the boy was living in Spain with an adoptive family without his consent.

Urmila Aryal, the minister for social welfare, acknowledged the scale of the scandal she called the "children trade". She said there is "a big nexus of people involved in the sale of children" and that children who have parents are frequently "sold for adoption as orphans".

The state newspaper, Gorkhapatra, reported that Mrs Aryal had claimed "district administrations and the police are aware of such actions but have remained quiet about it". It added: "She complained that she had raised objections against this long-standing malpractice but those who harvest dollars in the name of children silenced her."

There has been an outcry in Nepal after the Daily Telegraph revealed a booming market in stolen children sent abroad. The report won the backing of Unicef yesterday, when the United Nations children's organisation called on an adoption industry conference held at the weekend in Kathmandu to put the interests of children first and abide by international principles for adoption.

"These principles include ensuring that adoption is authorised only by competent authorities, and that inter-country adoption does not result in improper financial gain for those involved in it," said a Unicef statement.

The Daily Telegraph discovered that adoptive parents often pay as much as £10,000 in fees and bribes to adopt a Nepalese child, even leading some unscrupulous agents to find "orphans" by stealing children.

One of the organisers of the conference on inter-country adoption in Kathmandu offered to sell reporters a child who was ineligible for adoption under Nepali rules.

Upendra Neupani, chairman of the NGO federation of Nepal, an umbrella group of charities, said he has launched an inquiry into middle-men who broker the "sale" of children.

Child welfare officials previously afraid to speak out denounced the malpractice at the weekend. One accused his peers of "harvesting dollars in the name of children" and building big houses from proceeds.

At least 11 Nepalese children have been adopted by British parents since 2000. An official at the British Embassy said the rights of the child must be put first, but that adoptive parents also stood at risk of exploitation. "It is therefore important that the correct procedures are followed," he said.


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