Sri Lankan adoption scheme: questionable but not illegal

Jacintha came from Sri Lanka. When she was one year old her father died and her mother left her with an orphanage. Jacintha then went to live with a foster family in Switzerland. Carmela Odoni

The Swiss authorities have published a report aimed at shedding light on a long-running, partly illegal adoption programme involving hundreds of children from Sri Lanka.

swissinfo.ch with SDA-ATS/ug

Martin Klöti, a member of the St Gallen cantonal government, said on Monday that it was necessary to account for the past and help the children find their biological parents.

He said a private adoption scheme by a social welfare worker Alice Honegger, and lawyer Rukmani Thavanesan, in place since 1948 had official approval and the surveillance authorities were not guilty of any wrongdoing in the legal and social context at the time.

However, the programme should have been examined more thoroughly amid allegations of abducting and smuggling operations as well as handing out false identities, according to Klöti. He added that the legal situation changed in 1997, notably when Switzerland signed the convention of the rights of the child.

Criticism of Honegger first emerged in the 1980s, but she was cleared by the international police organisation, Interpol.

The controversy over the adoption scheme resurfaced in 2017 through a television programme in the Netherlands.

An estimated 11,000 toddlers from Sri Lanka are believed to have been brought to European countries for adoption, including about 700 to couples in Switzerland.

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