We Irish play an essential role in illegal trafficking in babies

Monday July 10 2006

IT would be hard to underestimate the pain My Linh Soland, the Vietnamese adoption facilitator, has brought to unsuspecting Irish families.

More than 150 couples have used Ms Soland to arrange the adoption of a Vietnamese child to complete their family.

On Saturday we revealed that Ms Soland, who was unaware that she was being secretly recorded, told a reporter posing as a prospective business partner about the corruption behind every Irish adoption out of Vietnam.

She outlined how she was at the centre of a corrupt adoption ring that operated at every level of the Vietnamese government.

Birth certificates were forged, babies were listed as abandoned even though the authorities knew where the parents were, and humanitarian aid that was supposed to help children was pocketed by corrupt officials.

In a country where the average salary is $640 a year, the $7,000-plus adoption fee was a cash cow they could not resist milking.

It was milked at the expense of natural parents and their families who were separated from their babies through illegal methods or spurious child-welfare grounds.

At the end of the process, Irish couples arrived home with a perfect child and a perfect story to match – except that, as Ms Soland now admits, the story was mostly bogus and there is no way of knowing, but every reason to suspect, that her actions were illegal or unethical.

The Irish authorities cannot claim to be surprised that the Vietnam adoption process should end with such pain.

The Irish Adoption Board stated on its website that, in order to adopt from Vietnam, couples had to send Ms Soland a personal cheque for $3,700. The rest had to be paid in cash, in small denominations, when the couple arrived in the country.

Such large sums of money in such a corrupt and impoverished country meant the facilitator and adoptive parents got the baby they desired.

The Vietnamese government last week admitted they do not audit where the money goes.

The money is supposed to go to humanitarian aid projects but, as Ms Soland revealed last week, it is used as corrupt payments to ensure a supply of babies with the proper paperwork.

The losers in this process were the natural parents and relatives of the babies who were removed from their families in order to satiate Irish demand.

This destruction of Vietnamese families probably would not have come to light if Ms Soland had not recently been revealed as a convicted fraudster who had served a lengthy prison sentence in the US.

Last week independent TD Paudge Connolly called for a public inquiry into her activities. Ms Soland’s subsequent admissions are likely to increase calls for such an inquiry.

Certainly there are now 150 Vietnamese children in Ireland who may have been illegally removed from their parents.

However, whatever such an inquiry might uncover, Ms Soland’s activities cannot be passed off as simply an aberrant activity by one rogue facilitator.

Irish people have adopted and continue to adopt from a variety of diverse locations such as Romania, China, Russia and Vietnam.

All these countries have been criticised for their human-rights record, but Ireland ignores this, such is the demand for babies.

Ireland would never extradite to any of these countries because their court systems cannot be trusted but, when it comes to court documents describing a tiny baby as unwanted, abandoned and unloved, Ireland accepts that the document is 100pc true.

Ireland adopts only from corrupt countries.

To these countries we bring the desperation of would-be adopters and large sums of cash.

We accept court paperwork that describes these babies as abandoned, unloved and unwanted – and ignore the role our cash plays in producing it.

USAID, the US government’s aid agency, found that money for corrupt officials was the driving force behind Romanian adoptions.

It reported: ” … children are being adopted out of Romania who would not, in the absence of the financial incentive, have been placed for adoption at all, let alone adopted internationally.”

T he Russian government has found that international adoption there is driven by middle-men who care not about trying to provide the best child-welfare solution but only about making a profit.

China’s problems with human rights need no introduction: forced abortions, execution of political dissidents and torture of religious groupings such as Falung Gong.

The authorities regularly show that they care little about the welfare of their most vulnerable citizens.

Despite all this, we accept paperwork and babies from these regimes, no questions asked.

It is almost certain that there are My Linh Solands in all these countries, working with the authorities to take children from families for our benefit.

We are an essential part of this highly profitable, illegal trafficking in babies.