Swiss to help adopted Sri Lankans trace their roots, in wake of scandal

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ZURICH, May 16 (Reuters) - The Swiss government will help people adopted from Sri Lanka up until the 1990s search for their birth families under a pilot project launched on Monday, after a scandal over allegations that child traffickers had sent stolen children to Europe.

The issue came to light after a Dutch television documentary in 2017 reported that thousands of Sri Lankan children were given up for adoption, often illegally, in European countries over the course of several decades.

The Swiss government in 2020 acknowledged with regret that authorities had turned a blind eye to adoptions from Sri Lanka up until the late 1990s despite clear indications of serious irregularities in some cases.

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"This negligence on the part of the authorities continues to impact adoptees' lives to this day," the justice ministry said.

The federal and cantonal government will now provide up to 250,000 Swiss francs ($248,680) annually for the three-year programme in conjunction with the Back to the Roots aid group.

A study by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) at the government's request found that Swiss authorities had approved the arrival of 950 children from Sri Lanka from 1973 to 1997, although it was impossible to pinpoint the exact number of adoptions that took place.

A follow-up ZHAW report on potential abuses in adoptions from 10 other countries is due this year.

($1 = 1.0053 Swiss francs)

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Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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