The Sunday Leader

Sri Lankan Children Up For Forced Adoption In The UK

  • UK authorities have not informed SL government
  • Parents are currently behind bars

By Gazala Anver

Parents Fayaz and Shakira are currently behind bars in the UK. and Picture Courtesy:

What would have been a perfectly normal day for Shakira Wahab, living in the UK with her husband Fayaz and three kids, turned out into a long drawn out nightmare, resulting in her landing behind bars and having her children taken away from her and fostered with strangers.
On September 28, 2011, Shakira was bathing her youngest daughter Alisha* in a basin when her two year old son Asad* playfully jumped on her. Shakira allegedly removed her arm from the basin to carry Asad, and in the process of forcibly moving her hand, baby Alisha incurred a minor injury on her bottom, near her perineum. The cut was deep and bled a little, and panicking, Shakira took Alisha to the hospital.
The hospital however, did not believe Shakira’s account of the incident, and called Social Services (SS) – after which all hell broke loose. “When she (Shakira) took Alisha to the Emergency room and informed the medical practitioner as to how the injury occurred, the hospital was not convinced and without any further assessment or interrogation took the matter to the social services,” said Shamara*, Shakira’s sister.
“The SS wanted a full skeletal survey done on Alisha. The following morning, September 29, the medical practitioner informed my sister that Alisha had sustained several rib fractures on her left side and a few indefinite rib fractures on her right,” Shamara said.
According to Shamara, her sister was naturally at a loss when asked how Alisha sustained the rib injuries. “Alisha was a healthy and happy baby feeding well with no signs of bruising or symptoms of rib fractures,” she said. “By the evening of the 29th the SS informed my sister that they would be issuing an interim care order for a period of 3 days, on grounds of unexplained rib injuries. They suspected that Alisha would have been abused.”
Just like that, suddenly, her other two children were also taken away from her on grounds “of risk of sustaining injuries in the future,” “emotional harm” and “neglect.”
“My father and I flew over immediately and he put himself forward to be assessed as a kinship carer. I claimed custody over the children under my father’s care to help him in the day-to-day practical needs of the children.”
Despite Shakira’s father producing a legally certified clear Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check for 25 years, it was not good enough. He then registered in the area General Hospital and rented a house for the children, building up an entire care plan. Two months down the line, the assessment continued, Shamara said, claiming that the maximum time taken for an assessment is 2 to 3 weeks. Despite going through all possible lengths to secure the children, absolutely nothing would do. “Whatever we did or said, they always twisted it against us in court. The SS gagged my sister and her husband. They were punished for no crime,” said Shamara.
In the following months, the family was allowed to see the children four days every week, two hours a day, and always under surveillance by the SS. They could only speak to the children in Tamil if there was an interpreter and every word spoken was carefully monitored. “The SS also threatened us that if they cry, or get distressed while in our presence, they would cut contact and let us visit the children only once or twice a week.”
According to Shamara, the children too were clearly distressed and the fact that they were getting distant from their culture and religion was all the more disturbing. “The children were even in different placements, living apart from each other. When this was brought up, my sister and her husband never received a proper response.”
After the SS ran a medical investigation over all three children, it was discovered that the oldest child, Ameera* aged 9 and Asad were both perfectly healthy, physically and mentally. Only Alisha had sustained rib injuries and a cut near her perineum. The SS were still unconvinced, and despite requests, they did not allow Alisha to be examined by an independent doctor.
All hopes that the family would be able to gain custody over the children too were shattered, when the SS informed that Shakira’s father was “too old” and could not look after the children. “Despite being their maternal aunt, even I was refused on grounds of not having a long term visa. When we spoke to other SS workers in the area, they informed us that no grandparent could be refused on grounds of old age. When my father’s assessment fell through, we put forward my uncle who is a British citizen and has CRB checks in UK. The SS immediately refused saying that they cannot change authority to another area.”
Then the bomb dropped. The SS allegedly went on to say that the children would be given up for forced adoption if no extended family came forward. “The SS is issuing a Care order in February to have 100 per cent legal rights over the children,” said Shamara.
At that point, both Shakira and her husband breached court order and on December 22, took away their children. Newspapers in the UK reported the incident, saying that the police and port authorities were on the look-out for them and on December 24, they were found and both Shakira and her husband were arrested by police in Leicester, charged with child abduction and jailed. The children were moved back to foster care.
“The UK authorities let my sister and her husband fight for justice alone. They did not inform the Sri Lankan embassy in the UK or the Sri Lankan Government. We are left with the fear that we will never see the children again. All we want is to bring them back to Sri Lanka safely,” Shamara pleaded. “What is more, is that the media in the UK has even published pictures and the names of the children. How are they supposed to live a normal life after this?” she asked.
*names changed to protect the identity of the children

Meanwhile in Norway…

Similarly, there have been other reports of such cases, where Social Services in western countries have taken away children from their parents. Recently, the Norwegian Child Welfare Services took away two children from Indian parents. According to media reports, they were taken away on grounds of being ‘fed by hand, the son not having his own bed, unsuitable clothes and toys and insufficient space in the room for them to play in’.
The case received wide publicity and criticism and finally India’s Minister for External Affairs S. M. Krishna met with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.
Støre assured Krishna that the Norwegian authorities are working hard to find a solution that is in the best interest of the children involved. Støre said that child welfare interventions of this nature “are rare and uniquely based on safeguarding the wellbeing of the children.” He added that the Child Welfare Services in Stavanger have firmly denied that this case in based on cultural prejudice or misinterpretation.
“The Child Welfare Services are at present in dialogue with the Indian Embassy in Oslo and the parents’ legal representative to find a solution that can be recommended to Stavanger District Court, which is currently dealing with the issue,” said a press release issued by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.
The Head of Child Welfare Services in Stavanger Norway, Gunnar Toresen, said that the “examples given by the parents for the intervention are criticism of feeding methods and sleeping arrangements. The impression given is that Norwegian authorities have intervened on basis of cultural prejudice and that the case is a result of cultural insensitivity and as such an insult to India and the Indian way of life.”
He added that “as head of the Child Welfare Services I most strongly deny that this case in any way is based on cultural prejudice or misinterpretation. I am unable to give any comments regarding the particular grounds in this case because of our duty of confidentiality.”
According to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, an official of the Indian Embassy in Oslo visited the foster home where the young children were staying and ascertained that they were in good health.
The Embassy stressed on the concerns of the Government of India to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that the children were being “deprived of the undoubted benefits of being brought up in their own ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic milieu.”
Following the talks between the two Governments, the children were returned to India so that they could be brought up ‘in familiar surroundings under the loving care of their extended family.’
“The Norwegian authorities have expressed understanding for the Government’s concerns and it is understood that they are trying to find a solution. The matter will continue to be pursued with them actively,” the embassy stated.
*names changed to protect the identity of the children

1 Comment for “Sri Lankan Children Up For Forced Adoption In The UK”

  1. M Jeeran

    Hi if you need any assistance please talk to me and I will have a chat with Home Secretary to help you out.

    Muheed Jeeran

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