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Malta raises alarm over Filipino trade in unborn babies


Malta raises alarm over Filipino trade in unborn babies MPs in the Philippines have called on the Manila police to hunt members of crime syndicates who are luring Filipino pregnant women to engage in the trafficking of their unborn babies to foreign countries – including Malta – in exchange for large amounts of money.

Malta raised the alarm in 2011 about Filippino women travelling with unborn babies to be trafficked in exchange for large sums of money Karl Stagno-Navarra

MPs Rufus Rodriguez and Abante Mindanao said that the recruitment of pregnant women by these syndicates to perpetuate their illegal activities should be stopped.

In filing a House Resolution, both they urged the Filippino House committees on social services and welfare of children to look into the matter.

"They travel overseas legally as tourists then sell their newborns to waiting adoptive parents abroad," Rodriguez said.

They added that the crime syndicates give them necessary travel documents, plane tickets and pocket money with the intent of having the child adopted as a form of a pre-arranged plan. He said that a case happened in Austria two years ago and in Malta last year.

Last year a Maltese man was charged before a local court for allegedly making a false declaration to immigration authorities when sponsoring a Filippino woman who requested and obtained a Visa, but who in fact was pregnant.

The police, department for Social Welfare Standards and Aġenzija Appoġġ investigated the case - which was triggered by reports of unborn child trafficking from the Philippines to Malta - and came to light during the 11th Global Consultation on Child Welfare Services held in Makati City, Philippines.

It transpired that although the woman had travelled to Malta legally as a tourist, investigations led to a Maltese man to be charged in court for not mentioning that the woman was expecting a child when he applied for her visa to come to Malta.

In August last year, the Philippines undersecretary for social affairs Alicia Bala expressed her concern that pregnant Filipino women were being recruited to travel overseas legally as tourists, then sell their newborns to waiting adoptive parents.

Alicia Bala was categoric that in the specific case of Malta "the mother who's pregnant [was] sponsored to go to that place with the intent of having the child adopted."

"This is a form of trafficking... Our attention was called by Malta authorities," she told had reporters.

The mother has since returned to the Philippines, but her child is now undergoing procedure for adoptive parents to keep the baby in custody.

"This is just one instance but, who knows, there may be other cases that are not brought to our attention. It is a prearranged plan of giving birth there, then they give the baby up. They don't keep the baby because there is already that intention to have the baby adopted abroad," Bala said.

As the mothers are able to exit the country legally, such cases are hard to detect unless reported by the receiving country, she said.

"You can't stop anyone from travelling. There's no reason for immigration agents to be suspicious about why a pregnant woman is going overseas. Maybe there's a facilitator here," Bala said.

Malta on trafficking watch list

The two Filippino MPs have meanwhile reiterated Bala's concern over the trafficking of unborn babies, but also warned that "there is no reason for immigration agents to be suspicious about why a pregnant woman is going overseas."

They told parliament in Manila however that action must be taken to address the reality which was exposed by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) that there are an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 children in the Philippines involved in human trafficking.

The International Labour Organization estimated 100,000 Filipino children who are victims of human trafficking.

Washington's 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report showed that the Philippines is overcoming its status as being included in the Tier 2 Watch List of United States' Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA).

"Things may soon turn for the worse again if a new form of human trafficking racket is not addressed, trafficking in unborn babies. There is a need to stop this new form of trafficking from proliferating and instead convince would-be-parents who wish to place their children up for adoption to comply with the legal process and go through the Inter-Country Adoption Board."

Malta appears on the Tier 2 'Watch List' along with - among others - Russia, Afghanistan and Belarus: the Watch List signifies that they do not comply with US norms and while they are making significant efforts to do so, there is little or no evidence that these efforts are proving effective.

The report recommends that Malta punishes human trafficking offenders more harshly. In the case of Malta it suggests, among other measures, that it should do more to identify victims and that it should punish them less.

Malta is currently engaged in a Human Trafficking Action to fight trafficking, prosecute offenders and protect victims.

US concern

The issue of Malta's listing on the Washington 'Watch List' for human trafficking was raised last week at the US Senate during the hearing of ambassador designate Gina Abercombie-Winstanley

Answering a question by Florida Senator Marco Rubio who expressed concern at Malta's capabilities of addressing matters related to human trafficking, Abercombie-Winstanley said that "the Maltese have had trouble with identifying victims and we have been working with them to help them do so as well as ensuring that they do not hold victims responsible or charge them for crimes directly related to them having been trafficked."

Abercombie-Winstanley was well briefed about a recent court judgement that sentenced a man to 10 years imprisonment for human trafficking, describing it as "a first successful prosecution and shows that they're moving in the right direction.

"Human trafficking concerns will be my priority when I get there," Abercombie-Winstanley told the Senate committee.

Pakistani adoption ring

In 2006, a Maltese national was imprisoned for seven years in Karachi for smuggling newborn infants to Malta. A preliminary inquiry by Judge Javed Qureshi in the Pakistani capital of Karachi had found that a Maltese adoption ring had taken some 100 Pakistani infants to Malta between 1998 and 2001. However this figure was claimed to be 39 by the Maltese ministry of social policy in 2006.

The children had been allegedly bought from poverty-stricken parents by a Maltese couple - Dennis and Concetta Charles - who had their house in Gulshan-I-Iqbal district raided in March 2002, where 11 infants had been found.

2012 Mar 28