A Croatian conservative member of the European Parliament has called for the suspension of adoption of children from countries that are not signatories to the convention on the prevention of child trafficking, after eight Croatians have been arrested in Zambia on charges of attempted trafficking in children.
Four Croatian couples were arrested in Zambia in early December last year on their way back to Croatia with four children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They have been charged with attempted trafficking in children.
The case has raised concerns in the government and among ordinary people in Croatia and sparked a heated debate on the morality of adopting children from poor countries.
Speaking at a conference of the conservative New Direction Foundation in Zagreb on Saturday, MEP Ladislav Ilčić said that care should be taken not to stigmatise the parents who adopted the children illegally. He, however, added that "simplifying things cannot be reason not to speak about this important matter of child trafficking."
"We do not want to talk about who has the right to adopt and who has not. We only want to deal with children's rights and fight against human trafficking," he stressed.
Ilčić said that countries in which this problem is the most acute are most often countries that are not signatories to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption, which lays down standards for preventing trafficking in children.
Ilčić said he was in favour of a temporary suspension of adoptions from countries that did not sign the Convention, "where some people go to adopt children because it is easier than in other countries."
Professor Dubravka Hrabar from the Zagreb Faculty of Law repeated that non-signatory countries were the biggest problem. "Most illegal adoptions are effected by buying children through intermediaries, in which way children's dignity and human rights are violated," she said.
Hrabar said that adoptions from "non-Hague" countries through foreign private organisations or associations should be banned.
Vesna Vučemilović, a member of the Croatian Parliament, said that Croatia was not an exception and that similar problems had occurred in many countries.
"Let us not pretend that there are no international smugglers, child traffickers in the world. The figures are deplorable. Like locusts, they are simply moving from one country to the next, for example Haiti, Uganda and Nepal," Vučemilović said.