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Mittwoch, 19. September 2012

Investigating the Grey Zones

The US branch of ISS - International Social Service - has published a detailed report about illegal practices in intercountry adoption. The report titled "Investigating the Grey Zones of Intercountry Adoption" covers a wide spectrum of problems ranging from Baby Farms, Child Laundering to Abduction and Forced Abandonment. It is a comprehensive overview of reported scandals and links those intelligently with international law particularly with the The Hague Convention of 1993 (THC 93). It's starting point is in fact that despite the increasing ratification of the Hague Convention about 60% of all intercountry adoptions take place in countries which are not covered by the Convention. Those countries who are covered tend not to get involved, while those countries, particular sending countries, who are involved are not covered by the convention.

While the report is certainly very useful as a documentation of widespread abuse of the system, it's overall message and approach is not as effective as it could be. A few comments can point to the problem:
  • The report aims to cover "grey zones". In fact the examples given and the themes discussed are not at all grey but clearly illegal. Document falsification, baby farming and stealing, forced abandonment are all criminal acts - even in countries with weak administrative systems where they usually take place. This is not a grey zone but rather a zone in which illegal acts are not prosecuted. Even in countries such as Ethiopia baby stealing, laundering and forced abandonment is not legal. This is a big difference because it points to potential solutions of the problem.
  • The debate about definitions of illegal adoption as child trafficking might hinder international cooperation but the act in itself - the illegal adoption - can be prosecuted even if it is not defined as child trafficking.
  • Problems of enforcement and prosecution of illegal adoption procedures point to the fact that in many sending (and sometimes receiving) countries, public authorities such as the police, courts and immigration authorities are implicated in illegal adoptions. Courts for instance processes cases which do not have sufficient paperwork; police officers report children as abandoned without searching for their families; immigration authorities give entry visa even though the adoption papers are dubious. If these public agencies were more careful in playing their roles and held accountable, much less of illegal adoption would take place.
  • The responsibility of the receiving country is downplayed in this perspective. The receiving country usually has the resources and the administrative capacity to apply the rule of law to intercountry adoptions. They should be hold accountable for the legality of the adoptions they process. Rather than pointing to weak administrations in poor countries, agencies and public authorities of receiving countries need to take on their responsibilities which their governments agreed to under THC93.
  • The money flow in ICA can be regulated by receiving countries. Fees could be monitored and agency behaviour could be controlled. It is a lack of will in receiving countries that allows easily corruptable actors and procedures to flourish.
  • Therefore there is little need to wait for THC93 to be strengthened or even applied in all sending countries. The lever for stopping abuse in the system lies squarely with the regulators in receiving countries. This is where the emphasis and spotlight should be.
Again, a great report but also a missed opportunity to identify the weaknesses of existing regulation in ICA.

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