/ 4 May 2004

’10 to 20 children a month’ disappear in Madagascar

Seven people have been arrested in Madagascar on suspicion of trafficking children through a bogus adoption scheme, police said late on Monday, adding that a worrying number of babies are disappearing in the Indian Ocean island.

Police said the arrests were made on April 30, about a fortnight after four people were detained on similar charges when 11 babies with false papers were found in the charge of an old woman among those held.

”We have managed to break up another international adoption network,” Rabetafika Fulgence, who heads a police department dealing with protecting minors, told a news conference.

”Seven people, including a doctor, the head of a registered international adoption centre and a social worker, were taken into custody at Antananarivo’s central prison,” he said.

He added that on April 26, three babies — an 11-month-old boy and two two-month-old girls — were found at the social worker’s house in a suburb of the capital.

She worked for the same organisation, Ketsa, which was embroiled in the earlier case, which led to the arrest of its legal adviser.

Ketsa’s director, Lys Rasoazanatompo, who appeared in court before being released in mid-April, was detained again later in the month in connection with the second case.

Fulgence said investigations had shown that Ketsa had falsified the infants’ birth certificates with the alleged complicity of the doctor who had never even seen the children and by paying women the equivalent of â,¬5 to pretend to be their biological mothers.

”We still haven’t found these children’s real mothers … We are going to keep at it because these days too many children are disappearing in Madagascar, reportedly 10 to 20 a month,” he added.

The largest ”market” for Madagascan children is France, whose nationals adopted 221 in 2002, according to a French Foreign Ministry website.

There are 24 registered international adoption centres in Madagascar. — Sapa-AFP