A case brought to light during the 11th Global Consultation on Child Welfare Services in Makati City, Philippines
of a pregnant Filipino mother who was sponsored to travel to Malta with the intent of having her newborn baby adopted has raised huge concerns of a new form of human trafficking.
Two cases had so far been reported—one in Austria two years ago and another in Malta last year. It has been reported that the mother in the case in Malta was sponsored to travel there with the intent of having her baby adopted.
The mother has returned to the country but her child is now undergoing procedure for adoptive parents to keep the baby in custody. The Department of Social Welfare Standards and the Maltese police state that they do consider this a case of child trafficking
As the mothers are able to exit the country legally, such cases are hard to detect unless reported by the receiving country. Therefore it is hard to determine how widespread the problem may be.
As the Maltese authorities begin their initial investigation, this is not the first time human trafficking case which has come to the forefront in Malta. Malta has been considered a source and destination country for eastern European women who are trafficked, mostly for the sex trade. African migrants are also vulnerable to human trafficking there.
Police are investigating the Filipino woman for giving false information in an official document to get into the country, and are considering charges.
In Malta, the Department for Social Welfare Standards (DSWS) is the central authority responsible for regulating inter-country adoptions. When this story came to light, they immediately alert their counterparts in the Philippines in an effort to coordinate resources in fighting trafficking networks which might exist between the two countries.
Malta has signed and ratified the convention on the protection of children and cooperation in respect of inter-country adoptions.
The convention is clear on the fact that for a child to be adopted in a foreign country, a different country from where the mother is a citizen, the sending country must approve the adoption.
This aspect of cross border adoptions is becoming more of an issue as more people desperate to create a baby are heading overseas and paying large sums of money to rent out a woman’s womb.
They may be unaware of the permission they need from their country, and may be unaware that their children could end up stateless.
It is illegal to pay for a surrogate mother in some countries, but in many countries the practice is not regulated. As long as the hopeful parent can front the money, the first steps to creating a baby are nothing more than a business transaction.
International surrogacy cases can create immigration nightmares, as the baby born to a couple in another country is not legally theirs, and is not automatically entitled to a passport and travel documents.
A harsh example of this is that in the past 18 months, at least two New Zealand babies had been born of Indian surrogates. But divergent surrogacy laws have meant the babies are not recognized as citizens of either country
The Hague Convention governs intercountry adoption and is currently formulating policy on international surrogacy as such transactions will likely become more common in the future.