Annual Report Europol

1 January 1999

2.4.3. Adoption of Children

Due to the complexity of adoption legislation, the slowness of adopting processes and the long

waiting lists for legal adoptions in most Member States, couples from the EU travel to poorer

countries in order to “purchase” children. The conditions of extreme poverty in some

countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe encourage this illegal activity.

As a result of the political and social developments following the fall of the Berlin wall, the

numbers of children from the Former Soviet Union and Central Eastern European countries,

adopted in Member States, has grown considerably.

The representative of the Italian NGO “ Amici dei bambini” reported in a seminar held in

Milan during September 2000 that there are areas in Ukraine where it is difficult to find out a

child younger then 6 years. The information was confirmed by the representative of the

Ukrainian association ”Children of Chernobyl for Surviving”.

Chart 2: Forced Labour and Trafficking in Human Beings























Employer Others Drivers


Children and baby smuggling were reported as a result of mass rapes that occurred during the

worst period of the Kosovan conflict. It is estimated that up to 20,0006

women were raped

during this time, 4.4% of the population, many of whom have since given birth to these

unwanted children.

Albania currently has the highest infant mortality rate in Europe according to the World

Health Organisation, unfortunately there is no infrastructure in place to record either the

number of pregnancies, births or deaths occurring and unlike Romania there is no history of

abandoning children to the state.

This basic administrative failure means that there is an easy and large supply of orphans for

organised criminals to trade in. There are thousands of unwanted babies and children in

Albania born out of war crimes and the government made it known that they do not want

these children officially adopted outside the country. Without legal controls in place to

monitor these children the organised criminal is unfettered.

The available black market for adoption that is already in place in more developed areas

means that the smuggling and transportation of the infants is the greatest hurdle that criminals

have to cross.

There are evidences from investigations in Member States of institutions abusing the system

for adoption of children. Often criminal organisations are behind illegal adoption, facilitating

contacts between customers from the Member States and institutions in origin countries,

taking care of forgery of documents and corruption of officials in order to allow the children

to be adopted in destination countries.

Cases were investigated in Member States where pregnant women were registered in hospital

to have a baby, with the name of the person who had agree to ‘buy’ the child, with the

collusion of hospital personnel.

Recent German and Italian police co-operation has identified organised criminals involved in

exportation of pregnant prostitutes to Germany, where, upon the birth, a sale is agreed of the

child to wealthy childless couples from other European states. It is known that hospitals and

clinics have been involved in such “adoptions”, with the mothers being forced to sign papers

relinquishing responsibility for their offspring and stating that they want their child put up for


An example of such a crime occurred during the year 2000, when a 17yr old pregnant

prostitute was paid to become pregnant and taken to Germany to give birth to her child, it is

believed the child has been adopted by a British couple. The victim has since returned to Italy

and having reported the crime to the Italian authorities is now in a witness protection


It is believed that Germany is the chosen birthplace for these children because there is already

an established black market. The phenomenon was already known to an Italian NGO called

“Gruppo Abele”, who provided social assistance to prostitutes in Italy. In a publication by the

Italian State institute Censis, which contains extracts from findings of Abele, the prostitutes

forced to sell their babies are referred to as “facitrici”. The report highlights that this

phenomenon is particularly related to the North East of Italy8

and was documented over ten

years ago in the municipality of Turin.


Observer Newspapers 21/06/00 quoted from World Health Organisation figures 7

BBC News Europe 03/08/00


Contro la tratta degli esseri umani. June 2000 - Mirta Del PRA


It is estimated that up to 30 babies may have been illegally adopted by western couples by the

method mentioned earlier.

The abuse of the system for illegal adoption of children led Member State undertake several

initiatives aimed at strengthening controls and preventing the phenomenon, even following

The Hague Convention for the protection of children and co-operation in the matter of

International Adoption. Due to the focus of this report on THB for sexual exploitation these

initiatives will not be listed.