Zagreb - On Wednesday, the parliamentary Committee on the Family and Youth presented proposals to improve the law on inter-country adoptions, including a ban on adoptions from countries that are not signatories to the Hague Convention and for an expert body to monitor adoptions.
The Committee held a thematic session in light of the trial of eight Croatian citizens who went to Africa to adopt four children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They were arrested in neighbouring Zambia on charges of attempted child trafficking.
Most children are adopted from Colombia, Ukraine, China, India and South Korea, and according to data from 2020, DR Congo is only in 19th place, said Professor Dubravka Hrabar from the Faculty of Law in Zagreb.
The Hague Convention on the protection of children and cooperation in connection with international adoption is a document that lays down standards aimed at preventing child trafficking. However, DR Congo is not a signatory to that document, warned Hrabar.
"We need to react urgently and ban adoptions from 'non-Hague countries'." This requires the coordination of various state bodies. I am concerned that we may be part of a wider chain of child trafficking because I know that there is drug, prostitution and child trafficking," said Hrabar.
Professor Hrabar: Part of the responsibility lies with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Part of the responsibility lies with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she believes, because it did not monitor and inform the government about the need to ban adoptions from risky countries.
The former president of the Adopta association, Diana Topčić Rosenberg, sees the problem in the fact that there is no single body that will publish and update all the information concerning regulations and procedures for adoption in all countries where it is possible to do so, and that they are understandable to the ordinary person.
"It is important to establish a professional body in charge of supporting and monitoring inter-country adoptions. Now it is up to the legislature to decide whether that will be an expanded central body that already exists within the Ministry of Social Policy or a separate body that will do it on the basis of a licence," she underlined.
Legal experts, social workers and psychologists would work there, Topčić Rosenberg added.
The former director of the Zagreb Polyclinic for the Protection of Children and Youth, Gordana Buljan Flander, assessed that a "separation crime" was committed against four children from DR Congo because they were separated from their primary families and handed over to adoptive parents they did not know.
"What will be the condition of these children if they come to Croatia? They will be traumatised, as will their adoptive parents. This affair has harmed future children who will be adopted," she said.
In addition to the Sabor, adoption procedures are also being discussed in the European Parliament, said MEP Ladislav Ilčić, who has put forward a proposal for a resolution to introduce increased supervision over all adoption agencies and to temporarily suspend adoptions from DR Congo and other countries prone to child trafficking.
Bridge MP Marin Miletić said that a case similar to the one with the Croatians arrested in Zambia could not have occurred in France or Great Britain.
"The ministries of foreign affairs of those countries have given their citizens either a ban on adoption from DR Congo or a recommendation to stay away from the Congo," he underscored.
SDP's Andreja Marić warned that generalisations should be avoided because not all adopters of children from foreign countries are child traffickers.
"The ban on adoption from DR Congo is defined for certain countries, the USA, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France. There are also certain exceptions. Whether they are clearly prescribed and whether Croatia is an exception remains to be seen," underscored Marić.