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Adoption boss says ministry puts trade before children


By Michael Blass/Radio Netherlands Worldwide

August 19, 2009

The head of the Netherlands' largest adoption agency has announced her resignation in response to what she describes as intimidation by the Justice Ministry.

Speaking in Tuesday's edition of the current affairs television programme Netwerk, adoption agency director Ina Hut said the Justice Ministry had threatened to withdraw the agency's licence if it continued its investigations into allegedly corrupt adoption practices in China.

Homes for orphans

Wereldkinderen works to provide homes for orphans from Africa, Asia and Latin America. In Tuesday's Netwerk, Ms Hut said that when she joined the agency in 2003 she was under the impression that adoptions were carried out in the interests of children. However, she was shocked at what she discovered. Her concerns at the practices in international adoption were enough for her to stop an adoption procedure of her own.

In 2005 a series of adoption scandals began to emerge in the Netherlands. The demand in Western countries was reported to be fuelling a trade in adoption children in countries like India, Colombia and Romania. There were claims that children were being kidnapped and sold for adoption. When Ina Huts heard that money had also been changing hands for adoption children in Hunan, China, she called on the Justice ministry to investigate the matter.

Corrupt practices

The Justice Ministry contacted the Chinese government and was given assurances that none of the children involved in the scandal had been adopted in the Netherlands, and all were genuine orphans. Those responsible for the corrupt practices had been prosecuted and measures had been put in place to prevent such things happening in future.

However, in 2008 Netwerk again featured a report claiming that local authorities in China were taking children away from their parents to sell them on for adoption. A Chinese orphanage director confirmed that children were sold to the orphanage willing to pay the highest price.

Ministerial pressure

In response, Wereldkinderen proposed to carry out its own undercover investigation in China. But Ina Huts says she was approached by Justice Ministry officials who pressurised her to put a stop to the inquiry in the interests of relations with the country. Wereldkinderen falls under Justice Ministry supervision, and the officials allegedly threatened to withdraw the agency's licence if it refused to comply.

Ms Huts says she concludes that the Justice Ministry consistently puts trade considerations before the interests of children. In a statement she says, "Particularly in recent years I observed that [...] both in the Netherlands and at international level, economic and diplomatic considerations often prevail above the interests of children."

The Justice Ministry denies that any pressure was put on Ms Huts. The ministry says its objections to Wereldkinderen's investigations were that they were to be carried out under cover. It says this is unacceptable given the agency has an official relationship with the ministry.

"It could have unintentional consequences for cooperation with China," runs the ministry statement, "in the first place in the field of adoption, but also concerning other relations."

2009 Aug 19