The mail sent on 24 January 2014 by Suranya Aiyar in New Delhi to the Malaysian Embassy in Sweden and to the Brazilian Embassy in Norway, copies sent to a number of establishments and press units in New Delhi.
***Children confiscated from parents in Norway and Sweden
I have seen in the news that a Brazilian family in Norway and a Malaysian family in Sweden are caught up in a dispute with child protection authorities in those countries. I understand that in the Brazilian case, the mother and daughter have taken refuge in the Oslo embassy and are negotiating for them to be permitted to go to Brazil, while in the Malaysian case the parents have been taken into jail on allegations of their having slapped or spanked one of their sons and that all four of their children have been put into foster care.
I am writing to express my sympathies and also to bring to your attention that there have been similar cases regarding Indian families in Norway (Bhattacharya family) and the United States of America (Saha family) in which the Indian government intervened and successfully succeeded in having the children in question repatriated to India. In another case in Norway (Chandrasekhar Vallabhaneni family) where parents were alleged to have physically punished their child, though the Indian Government was not successful in preventing incarceration of the parents, they were able to appeal to the Norwegian authorities to grant the parents a reprieve of the last 1/3rd of the jail term - apparently this the norm in Norway unless there are exceptional circumstances.
There appears to be a humanitarian crisis in these countries where families are being attacked and punished under draconian laws that allow children to be permanently removed from their families and barred from returning to their countries on very flimsy grounds - indeed many of us watching these cases do not believe that such absolute confiscation of children from home, country and family is ever justified. We have also observed that foreigners, low-income families, families that are overtly different in their ways of living or religious beliefs from the country of residence and families where either a parent or the child suffers from disabilities (including minor ones such as dyslexia) are particularly targeted by these so-called child protection authorities.
I hope that you are successful in returning the children to their rightful families and countries. I am attaching for your information the following:
1. A petition that some activists in India have filed with our National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which gives a legal basis for arguing that international law requires that the children in question be returned to their families and countries. Please note that the principles of right of return and special relationship with native country (even if the child concerned is not a passport-holder of that country or has only one parent who originates from that country) would arguably apply, as customary law, even if the countries in question are not parties to the conventions quoted in this petition.
2. A list of the documents filed with this petition which gives an overview of the extent of this problem with child protection authorities in the First World - hyperlinks to the documents are included, so you can access them on the internet.
3. A detailed report of the Norwegian documents in the Bhattacharya case - this was also part of the petition filed with the NHRC.
I hope these are of use in your intervention with the Norwegian and Swedish authorities. You may also make contact with Indian foreign ministry officials in charge of America and Norway to gain insight into how the Indian cases were handled - the contact details of the officials for the Americas and Western Europe are available on the Indian Foreign Ministry website, as also those of the Indian foreign minister.
In the Indian cases in which I campaigned with the government to intervene, I noted as the case progressed that there was extreme reluctance on the part of the foreign authorities to return the children - even to family members other than those against whom allegation of neglect or abuse were made. It took sustained pressure at the highest level. In the Bhattacharya case, our Prime Minister had to intervene and in the other two cases, it was necessary to involve the foreign minister directly.
Another thing to be careful about is the health of the children in foster care. There is a high incidence of children falling ill, getting injured and dying in foster care. In the US case there were three instances where the little boy, less than a year old when he was taken away, was found to have been injured or required hospitalisation for dehydration associated with fever and cold. So you are advised to insist that officials from your embassies are permitted to visit the children frequently to ensure that they are not being neglected or abused in foster care.
The child protection authorities are very adept at exploiting differences between the father and mother of the children to make that an excuse for not returning children to their families - this occurred in the Bhattacharya case where the case also involved a custody dispute between mother and father and allegations were made against the mother to say she was unfit to keep her children. It has now been over a year that the children in this case have been back with their mother, they are both doing very well and the mother was examined over several months in India and found to be completely sane and fit by experts here. (see this recent article: http://indianexpress.com/article/news-a ... g-to-them/
) So, one thing we have noticed is that these foreign authorities are not above telling blatant lies when it comes to keeping hold of foreign children. The main reason for this, apart from cultural prejudice against families in "poor" or "backward" countries, is that every child in foster care represents significant amounts of money for the local child protection authorities as well as the foster carers and other social workers involved in the case.
If you are interested, I can put you in touch with lawyers and activists in Norway and Sweden who have been supporting families attacked by child protection authorities there.
I will end by giving a brief background of myself - I am an Indian citizen living in New Delhi. I have two small children and before I quit work to take care of them I was a practising lawyer. In the last two years, since I got to know about this issue when the Bhattacharya case in Norway burst upon the news in India, I have been writing and campaigning against the confiscation of children by foreign State authorities. Listed below are some articles I have published on this issue: Overview of western child welfare authorities: http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main52 ... 2think.asphttp://www.pravasitoday.com/understandi ... e-agencies This one is about the Bhattacharya case in Norway:http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/p ... 39646.aspx This one is about the Saha case in the US: http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/c ... 11847.aspx This one is about the Vallabhaneni case in Norway:http://www.timescrest.com/world/how-abo ... y-goi-9345
If there is anything at all that I can do to help, please do get in touch. All the best in your efforts to save these hapless families.
*Supporting Materials with Petition
*The Confiscation of the Bhattacharya Children by Norwegian Authorities - Case Study Final