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Rescue our children from Norwegian foster care

2013 Jul 15

by Gagani Weerakoon



As the struggle launched by the Sri Lankan parents of Tamil origin in Norway, to get their children released from foster care, reaches its third year, international rights groups are now coming forward to extend their support.



Relatives of the parents, who are originally from Sri Lanka’s North, held a protest near the Parliament roundabout last Wednesday (10) seeking the intervention of parliamentarians and diplomats, to negotiate with the Norwegian Government to help their relatives in Norway, to get their children back from the clutches of child welfare organizations.



Parents and relatives of the children who were separated from their biological parents continue to allege, forcing their children into foster care was an arbitrary and forcible act, simply because of  the cultural differences in how South Asian parents bring up their children.



With these events receiving much needed exposure in the international media, as opposed to much reluctant coverage the issue got at the beginning, sources from Oslo said the parents were recently approached by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.



“They have approached parents and persuaded them to approach lawyers to press charges, as they too believe the issue amounts to violation of human rights. The parents were also offered with contacts of best lawyers in the Netherlands and they (parents) are to take their case to the UNHRC in Geneva too,” sources said.



Seeking intervention



In a petition, in which they brought the issue to the notice of the President of Sri Lanka, Geneva Human Rights Council, all Diplomatic Missions in Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission, the parents sought the intervention of all parties to lobby with Norwegian Government for the release of their children.



“The Norwegian Government has blatantly violated the fundamental human rights and the children’s rights by detaining approximately 16,000 children, including our loved ones who had been forcibly separated from their parents, and detained at the above said children’s homes.



“Besides, kindly note that our children were forcibly taken away by vans in a heartbreaking manner and kidnapped by the authorities of the children’s home concerned. The indecent act of this nature has tremendously affected both the children and their respective helpless parents psychologically.



“Our children, who were nourished according to the Sri Lankan culture of ancestral fame, are now being nurtured in accordance with the Norwegian culture and prevented from either even speaking in the Tamil language, their mother tongue or eating rice and curry, their traditional food. In addition to this, they are compelled to speak and write only in the Norwegian language,” excerpts of the petition stated.



In what seems to be a tiny hope of light at the end of the tunnel, one family of Sri Lankan Tamil origin living in Oslo, Norway, who lost their four children to foster care got back at least one child in mid-May 2013, following a years-long struggle to get their children back.



Speaking to Ceylon Today from Norway, T. Anantharajah, however, said they will not stop the struggle until all families get their children back.



Anantharajah, whose four children were taken away by the Norwegian Child Welfare Organization, said authorities took steps to return his 11-year-old son to his brother-in-law, who is also living in Norway.



“Though we are happy that at least one child was returned to our close family, we cannot enjoy this completely as my other three children and all the children of others whom we launched this struggle together with, are still in foster care,” he added.



Ray of hope



He also said his eldest daughter was also allowed to visit her parents and family on 17 May, as Norway celebrated National Day, and in fact, was allowed to stay with the family for one week.



“My son, who was returned to my wife Rajitha’s brother, is attending the same school he attended when under foster care. But, child welfare authorities have allowed him to learn Tamil as well,” he added.



He, however, queried if authorities could release one child from foster care why couldn’t they release the other three, who were also taken away based on the same alleged charges.



More than 60 children, all of them born in Norway to Tamil parents, were forcibly taken away by the Norwegian child welfare authorities, based on dubious claims of the children being treated badly and rudely by their parents at home. The children have either been placed in foster care or in welfare centres.



It is believed the conflict between the Norwegian authorities and the parents of Asian and Middle Eastern countries started due to the lack of understanding and sensitivity towards different cultures and traditions by the authorities.



Claiming that action they take to discipline their children has been misinterpreted by the Norwegian authorities as harassment the agitating parents said the children were being disciplined for their good, not with the intention to harm.



The Norwegian Child Protection Authority had taken away Dilanthini’s three children from their school, over a complaint alleging that she was ill-treating her 12-year-old daughter.



The Norwegian authorities are of the view that children of Asian families are not taught proper habits and are made to eat with their bare hands. Allowing the children to sleep in a room with their parents has also been deemed a form of child abuse.

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