Funds pledged to help Sri Lankan adoptees trace roots

Some 900 Sri Lankan children were illegally sold to Swiss adoptive parents from the 1970s to the 1990s. Keystone / M A Pushpa Kumara

The Swiss authorities will provide up to CHF250,000 ($250,000) a year to help Sri Lankans who were illegally adopted trace their roots and find their birth families.

This content was published on May 16, 2022 - 16:31

The government and cantonal funding will support a three-year pilot project by the ‘Back to the Roots’ organisation, it was announced on Monday.

Back to the Roots provides advice and information for Sri Lankans who were illegally adopted by Swiss families. It helps them search for and inspect records in Switzerland and Sri Lanka and locate and establish contacts in Sri Lanka.

In 2020, the government apologised and finally admitted to oversights in adoption regulationsExternal link that led to some 900 Sri Lankan children being illegally sold to Swiss parents from the 1970s to the 1990s.

“This negligence on the part of the authorities continues to impact adoptees’ lives to this day,” the government statedExternal link.

The children were often newborns or very young, and sold for CHF5,000-CHF15,000. The biological mothers in Sri Lanka received very little of this money, with intermediaries usually pocketing the profits.

A further study by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences also revealed the extent of trafficking, which led to some 11,000 Sri Lankan children given up for adoption in European countries.

Last year, the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) called on Switzerland to conduct an impartial investigation into past illegal adoptionsExternal link from Sri Lanka and pay reparations to victims. 

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