Netherlands probes illegal adoptions 

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The Hague - The Dutch ministry of justice has launched an investigation into alleged illegal adoptions of children from India.

The Indian authorities claim that at least 350 adoptions arranged by one orphanage were illegal. Fifty-three of the children were adopted by Dutch parents.

Last week a Dutch television current affairs programme showed Indian parents from the city of Madras claiming their child had been stolen from them six years ago. Later they discovered he had been given up for adoption to a Dutch couple with official adoption papers.

The Indian couple has filed a return request for their child with the Dutch Central Authority, the body responsible for the return of children illegally obtained abroad.

The report also showed evidence of the allegedly dubious role played by the Meiling Foundation, which mediated in Dutch-Indian adoption processes.

Following the broadcast, Rene Hoksbergen, former chair of adoption law at the Royal University of Utrecht, said the allegations were "likely to be true".

Money plays an important role, Hoksbergen said. Adoptions are a profitable business, especially from abroad. In India, orphanages receive more money from foreign than from national adoptions.

On Tuesday Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin of the Christian Democratic Party (CDA) said the Dutch youth care inspection authority has launched an investigation into the role of the Meiling Foundation.

The investigation will be conducted by an independent party, Hirsch-Ballin wrote in a letter to parliament.

On Tuesday, the Dutch prosecution office notified Hirsch-Ballin it does not yet see any reason to start a criminal investigation into the affair.

The justice minister said he would update the parents about any new developments and added that the "allegations that were made are very serious".

The Meiling Foundation said it would fully co-operate with the investigation by the justice ministry. Between 1994 and 2002 the foundation brought 53 children to the Netherlands. - Sapa-DPA
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