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Monday, October 11, 2004
Police are examining hundreds of cases of foreigners claiming to be the fathers of babies born into poverty
At least three British couples are among scores of would-be parents who are under investigation for allegedly buying babies from Romania, according to Michael Leidig reporting from Bucharest for News Telegraph.
Foreign men from across Europe are believed to be exploiting a loophole in the law and falsely claiming paternity of Romanian children, and with it the right to take the babies out of the country, circumventing a ban on international adoptions.
The ban was passed in 2001 under pressure from the European Union and is now rigorously enforced.
Families who accept money or other goods for their child face up to seven years in jail.
But Romania's prime minister, Adrian Nastase, said that police were investigating dozens of cases involving "parents" from Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Greece, in addition to Britain.
Other men claiming paternity have come forward from Turkey, Hungary and even Iran.
The police believe that there could be hundreds of similar cases, in which large sums of money change hands to help childless couples to bypass the ban, find suitable children and smuggle them out of Romania.
Many of the paternity cases are suspicious because foreign citizens have come forward to declare paternity of babies a long time after they were born.
A spokesman for Romania's organised crime department said: "We are looking at three cases involving UK families, but we cannot reveal any names or details while investigations are continuing." We are looking at cases where the man claimed to be the father of a child where no father was named on the birth certificate. In each case, these children are now living abroad."
The spokesman said that paternity deals may also have been arranged "to order". The authorities suspected that intermediaries have paid pregnant women to hand over their babies having written the name of the foreign father on the birth certificate to avoid suspicion when the baby is officially registered.
"We have been investigating these cases since June this year, and maternity wards and city halls have been carefully checked," the spokesman said.
The Romanian authorities are also considering DNA tests to confirm paternity claims.
Contraception and abortion were banned in Romania by the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
When his regime fell in 1989, almost 100,000 abandoned children were left neglected in homes and institutions across the country.
Many couples in the West offered to adopt children after programmes about their plight were broadcast on television.
Up to a third of the 100,000 children eventually found new homes but many of the others ended up living on the streets.
An estimated 40,000 children are still living in state care.
There are many babies born into poverty in Romania and their parents cannot afford to keep them.
The government has now authorised a further strengthening of the ban passed in 2001, and in so doing has removed another obstacle to Romania's hopes of gaining European Union membership in 2007.
The new policy will make foreign adoptions of Romanian babies almost impossible from January 2005.
The only circumstances in which children can be adopted by a family living abroad is if one of the adoptive parents is the grandmother or grandfather of the child.
The rule has also prompted a rush of claims by foreign fathers seeking paternity issues to be settled before the January deadline.
Gabriela Coman, the head of Romania's National Authority for Adoption and Child Protection, said the scam was an attempt to skirt the existing ban before the new regulations came into effect.
Other children's welfare groups point out that foreign couples keen to take on unwanted Romanian children can offer them the only chance of a new life.
They believe that the children's plight will worsen after the regulations come into force.
Roberto Zambrenti, the president of the Italian group Amici dei Bambini, said: "We doubt that Romania will have the capacity to absorb all its children and give them a family."
The Romanian government has launched a study into why so many children are abandoned by their mothers.
Monica Nedef, the head of a state child protection department in Bucharest, said mothers arriving at hospitals in labour were now being monitored to find out what happened to their new-born babies.
A spokesman for the country's Organised Crime Department added that prospective adoptive fathers had frequently been regular visitors to Romania, carrying out charity work for example, before claiming to have had a relationship with the child's mother.
He said it was easy for would-be adoptive couples to make contact via casual enquiries at orphanages, or over the internet, with intermediaries prepared to help them circumvent the adoption laws.
Many staff saw nothing wrong with passing information to foreigners that might help a child to a new life.
The spokesman said that with bribery a common part of daily life, couples were prepared to offer up to £5,000 for help.
Posted by Iulia Rasoiu : 10/11/2004 11:11:00 am
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