Switzerland regrets past Sri Lankan adoption practices

Almost 900 Sri Lankan-born children found a Swiss home between 1973 and 1997. Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

The government has admitted to oversights in adoption regulations that led to some 900 Sri Lankan children being illegally sold to Swiss parents from the 1970s to the 1990s.

This content was published on December 14, 2020 - 13:38

“The Federal Council acknowledges the misconduct of the authorities at the time. Despite early and clear indications of illegal adoption placements in Sri Lanka, the Confederation and the cantons waited far too long before taking appropriate action,” the government wroteExternal link on Monday.

The recognition and the report come three years after a parliamentary question prompted an investigation into gaps in adoption oversight.

Another report published in February 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. Almost 900 cases were recorded in Switzerland between 1973 and 1997.

Swiss authorities were aware of the problems no later than 1981, the report found. And while cantons had a role to play – they oversee adoption agencies – it’s the federal authorities that bear the final responsibility since the issue in this case went beyond national borders, it wrote.

The children were often newborns or very young, and sold for CHF5,000-CHF15,000 ($5,650-$16,930). The biological mothers in Sri Lanka received very little of this, with intermediaries usually pocketing the profits.

Tracing roots

On Monday the Swiss government pledged to take various steps to improve the situation.

It will provide better support to those concerned who are in search of their origins, it said. To this end, it is working with cantonal authorities, Sri Lankan authorities, and the “Back to the Roots” association, which represents the interests of adopted Sri Lankans.

It also intends to widen the scope in another investigation to determine whether “systematic irregularities” in adoption rules also occurred with other countries of origin.

Lastly, an expert group will examine the current adoption system to check if any such weaknesses remain.

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