Dutch teens arrive for reunion with family

 Frontpage Chennai Edition 19.08.2010

Illegal Adoption Landed Them In Netherlands 14 Years Ago
Jaya Menon | TNN

Kanyakumari: A strong sea breeze whips through Kootupuli, a hamlet dotted with windmills and new houses built post-tsunami. There is much excitement in a cramped, brightly-painted house in the colony over a reunion. This is where two Dutch teenagers, Melissa, 19, and her brother Miquel, 18, will meet their mother, Dekla Selvam, a fisherwoman, after a gap of 14 years. In 1996, Dekla bid them farewell after visiting them in an orphanage in Chennai, promising a weeping Melissa a pair of anklets on her next visit the following week.
    In anticipation of a reunion, the family waited all through the day as the teenagers, accompanied by a team of Dutch authorities and child counsellors, landed at the Thiruvananthapuram airport and later drove down to Kanyakumari. As news of their arrival spread, Kootupuli, a fishing hamlet 13km from Kanyakumari, ravaged by the 2004 tsunami and rebuilt in two years, rejoiced. 
    Dekla, 51, and her five children, Lily (28), Leo (27), Ditto (26), Dino (23) and Dismin (16), cleaned and washed the house and dressed up for the occasion. The warm glow that enveloped the family as news was conveyed to Leo about the arrival of his siblings more than made up for the shabbiness of the house, which has a television to boast of and a few clay statuettes adorning the window sill. 
    “God has finally heard my prayers and has brought my children back to me,” Dekla told TOI, tears streaming down her face. Clutching a print of Melissa’s picture sent to her two years ago, Dekla, who relentlessly tracked down her children, said, “We have nothing to give them but our love. When they come, we will hug them and take them into our fold.” 
    As the family waited anxiously, surrounded by a few relatives and neighbours, a mediator called Leo to inform him that he and his mother could come to a hotel in Kanyakumari, where the teenagers were staying, and take them home. 
    It was an illegal adoption that separated Dekla from her children. Trying to make ends meet by selling fish in Nagercoil, Dekla had confided in a customer, who was a frequent visitor to Chennai, that she was finding it difficult to look after her seven children with no support from her husband, Maria Selvam. German NGO helped track teens 
Kanyakumari: It was an occasion of great joy for Dekla Selvam of Kootupuli near Kanyakumari, who sells fish. Her children Melissa, 19, and her brother Miquel, 18, who were put up for adoption abroad 14 years ago without her knowledge. Unable to makes ends meet for her seven children, Dekla had told her problems to a customer, who was a frequent visitor to Chennai. 
    The man suggested that she leave her children in an orphanage run by the Malaysian Social Service. The adoption agency assured her that it would educate the children and send them to her when they were 18 years old. She gave up four of her children. While two were returned to her, Melissa and James Kapil, now Miquel, were put up for adoption abroad without her knowledge. 
    When a major scandal broke out in 2005, she learnt that the adoption agency had kidnapped and sold several children to couples abroad. The CBI is now probing the case. Dekla immediately rushed to Chennai, but there was no trace of her children. Tracking them proved difficult until Germany-based Arun Dohle of ‘Against Child Trafficking’ helped unravel the mystery. Their foster parents had separated legally and Melissa and Miquel were placed in a government-run home in the Netherlands. 
    On April, 2008, Dekla heard from Melissa for the first time. “Dear Mother, I am so touched to hear that you have been waiting for me all these years. I am desperately waiting to see you again. We are no longer with our foster parents. I go to college on a motorcycle everyday. I am not too good at studies, but can read and write. Please send a photograph of yours. I love you very much and I am sending you kisses from me and Kapil,” the girl said in a letter to her mother. 
    A few weeks back Arun Dohle received a mail from the Dutch officials of the Centre for Agogische Zorg Zeeland (AZZ) informing him of their 10-day itinerary in India. “The goal of the trip is the reunion of the young adults with their biological parents,” said a representative of the Netherlands government-run organization in the letter. “It has been a traumatic experience for the woman. And it was very difficult for Arun to track the children with the government being so uncooperative,” pointed out Anjali Pawar of the Punebased Sakhee, an organization working on child issues.
FLOOD OF EMOTIONS: Dekla (left) with a photo of her children in Kootupuli, and (above) Miquel and Melissa at Thiruvananthapuram airport