01/07/2005, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Adoption ban in Sri Lanka

A spokesman for the Prime Minister and the head of National Child Protection Authority say that abductions are rising. Pressure is mounting on Indian government to ban tsunami orphan adoptions.

Colombo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Sri Lanka has decided to ban adoption of tsunami children out of fear that they might fall prey to criminal gangs involved in child trafficking and end up in the sex trade or other illegal activities.

"Adopting the children until a permanent solution is implemented is illegal," government spokesman Managala Samaraweera told reporters, "even [for] a Sri Lankan". New rules will have to be adopted before adoptions can resume; "even [. . .] relatives [. . .] are not expected to take children without government permission."

Thousands of children fled their homes or lost their parents during the tsunami, and there are fears that some may have been abducted by criminals interested in selling them in the sex and the illegal adoption trade.

"There are reported incidents," Lalith Weeratunga, secretary to Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse. "If you look at the newspapers there are notices to find children who (witnesses) say have been snatched."

"There is a whole lot that needs to be done to ensure they are totally safe," he added. "Over 9,000 children have been affected by the disaster."

Although there are no precise figures of the number of orphans in Sri Lanka, Harendra de Silva, chairman of the National Child Protection Authority, reports that an alarmingly high number of children have gone missing in hospitals and refugee camps. The government is currently is drawing a list.

So far the death toll from the tsunami stands at 30,615 dead and 4,356 missing.

Indian authorities are coming under pressure to follow Sri Lanka and ban adoptions. A coalition of 60 child welfare organisations called on the government to stop adoptions.

According to Sheelu Francis of the Tamil Nadu Women's Collective Training Centre, "the Indian government should slap a ban on adoption from tsunami-affected coastal districts for at least a year [because] in the guise of adoption, human trafficking may happen." Traffickers, she said, "may take this opportunity to snatch children and make them work in factories or homes or use them in the sex trade".

Indian authorities responded saying that the adoption issue needs to be treated with the utmost sensitivity, and that no decision has yet been taken.

A few days ago, the Indonesian government banned adoptions of Aceh orphans in response to reports of child trafficking. Only after child centres are set up will it be possible to adopt again. (MA)

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