Corruption in international adoptions

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Images of Albania 

NOTE: This page from the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism website offers documentation of and background about serious irregularities in international adoption. For the systemic analysis of corruption in international adoption, please read “The Lie We Love,” Foreign Policy magazine, Nov./Dec. 2008, and visit our webpages dedicated to international adoption. For ideas about fairer policy solutions, please read “The Baby Business,” Democracy Journal, Summer 2010. 

News reports of adoption
irregularities in Albania

Below are some news articles compiled by the Schuster Institute about adoptions from Albania.

“The Shocking Truth About the Baby Factories,” Natalie Clark, December 22, 2006, The Daily Mail.

Report on adoption-related impregnation and trafficking that comes through Greece, as gangs prey on poor young women from Eastern European countries. News peg is the arrest of a 16-year-old whose father-in-law brought her to Greece to sell her baby to Marie Golby, a 41-year-old British woman. “The Romanian gipsy, Sophia Percula, has admitted to the police that she went to Greece earlier this month to sell her six-month-old daughter for 14,000 euros (around £9,500) in an illegal adoption scam arranged by a cousin.” Percula accused Golby of stealing the child during price negotiations. Reports that “Last month, five Albanians were arrested near the Greek-Albanian border for the alleged sale of eight Roma infants. The gangs recruit the women in several ways. One, say police sources, is to seek out a young, attractive, healthy woman and tell her they can organise a false passport and papers to enable her to enter Greece. Once this has been done, the girl is presented with a huge bill which she is unable to pay. She is then told that the debt will be written off if she gets pregnant and gives up her baby.” The gangs impregnate the girl. Quotes an unnamed police source as saying that the girl is then driven into prostitution. Goes into further details about the Percula/Golby situation. Golby was arrested.  It is believed that these women are made pregnant by members of the gang - a man inevitably caught up in the other mafia 'businesses' of drug dealing and prostitution.

“Baby trafficking is thriving in Greece,” Niki Kitsantonis and Matthew Brunwasser, December 18, 2006, International Herald Tribune.

An increasing number of people unable to adopt children through official channels are resorting to other methods in Greece, where private adoptions are unregulated and a traffic in babies is thriving, according to legal experts and the police. Most of the babies for sale in Greece are brought here by impoverished women from Bulgaria and other Balkan countries, these experts say. Reports on coercion and outright theft by middlemen. A 16-year-old Roma girl from Romania reported her baby was stolen by a British woman while they tried to negotiate a price. Quotes one official as saying that “her department had traced nine sales of Bulgarian infants in the first six months of this year and arrested 33 suspected mediators—24 Bulgarians, 7 Greeks and 2 Albanians. The Greeks included doctors and lawyers, she said, adding: "This is definitely just a fraction of the real number of cases."” Blue-eyed male babies fetch the highest prices. Quotes other officials as saying that since Greece has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, there are not enough adoptable babies at state institutions to meet demand.
"For Albanians, It's Come to This: A Son for a TV," Nicholas Wood, November 13, 2003, New York Times.
In-depth report on a “substantial” trade in children here in Europe’s most impoverished and isolated country. Includes examples, such as Fatmira Bonjaku, whose husband was jailed for selling their 3-year-old son to an Italian man in return for the television set that six other children watch in the family's dimly lighted room. The police also say her husband had plans to sell their newborn, whom she is breast feeding. Some children are sold for begging and prostitution, others for adoption. Police have wiretaps of the Bonjakus’ conversations with the Italian man arranging to pay the Bonjakus 5,000 euros (about $5,750) before the baby was due, and another 5,000 euros upon delivery of the child.
“‘I Gave Away My Son So He Could Escape Squalor’,” Sophie Arie, October 14, 2003, The Guardian.
Albanian families in dire poverty are selling children to child trafficking gangs. Fatmira Bonjaku, whose husband was arrested for selling their child, says she didn’t sell her three-year-old, but gave him away so he could have a better life in Italy. Four years earlier, Fatmira's husband, Kujtim, brought Angello Borelli, an Italian pensioner, to the house to adopt three-year-old Oracio. Fatmira's case was highlighted when police in Italy arrested 69-year-old Mr. Borelli, his 57-year-old wife, Iole Rodio, and members of a gang who helped to smuggle Oracio into the country. The Borellis, who come from Calabria in southern Italy, have been accused of paying the Albanian traffickers €5,000. They have denied all charges. “In another recent case, a woman in the small southern town of Pogrodec sold her child, thought to have been only two years old, for less than $1,000. She knows the toddler was then sold again in Greece but has no idea where it has ended up. The children are often bought for next to nothing by trafficking gangs who then mark up their price to as much as €300,000 or put the children up for auction to wealthy European couples looking for a short-cut adoption.”
“Back Home: the Child of Six Sold to Traffickers,” Daniel Howden, June 19, 2003, The Independent.
In-depth report on Albanian criminal child trafficking rings, whose activities stretch throughout Europe.
“New Law Gives Legal Basis to Adoption of Children by Foreign Citizens,” Radio Tirana, January 7, 1993, The British Broadcasting Corporation.
The Albanian parliament passed a new law regulating the process in which Albanian children are adopted internationally. Article states that “the most important principle for this law is that the adoption is allowed only if it is to the benefit of the children and if their basic rights are observed.” The Albanian Committee for Adoption, under the Council of Ministers, has been set up to protect the children who are adopted.
“Tirana office investigates involvement of former officials in foreign adoptions,” Albanian Telegraph Agency, December 30, 1992, The British Broadcasting Agency.
The problems associated with the adoption of 260 Albanian children abroad have been “strengthened by the fact that many of the judges who have carried out these acts of adoption have themselves fled the country, also including here the ex-chief of the cabinet of former President Alia.” Tirana's attorney Kadri Skera said that a group should be set up with “experts in the field of justice” to investigate the adoptions of these children.
“Rights and Wrongs: Albanians try to prevent ‘baby trade’ racket,” Caroline Moorehead, April 27, 1992, The Independent (London).
Albania has announced that it intends to suspend all international adoptions while it works out a policy after losing hundreds or maybe even thousands of its children in illegal foreign adoptions due to its “recent internal chaos.” Albania and Cambodia are aware of the need to act quickly in order to prevent “what happened to homeless Romanian children in the wake of the revolution there.” Countries face fear of what happened in Latin America where “Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Guatemala have all suffered from epidemics of illegal foreign adoptions, made possible by corrupt lawyers and government officials.”

Photos in collage, from left 
© D. J. Clark
© Melissa Dura
© Laurie Newman

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Last page update: February 22, 2011