External Affairs

Norway Advocates Restraint Over Indian Child Custody

India, on the other hand, said it it is ready to intervene if a formal request is made by the mother.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Credit: Reuters

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: The Norwegian embassy on Friday called for “restraint”, even as India said that it was ready to intervene if the mother, an Indian citizen, approached the government for help in getting back her son from Norway’s child welfare services.

On Dec 13, Norway child services had taken away a five-year-old boy into foster care over allegations of abuse. While the father is a Norwegian citizen of Indian origin, the mother is an Indian passport holder.

Following Indian media reporting on the case, the embassy of Norway issued a statement on Friday stating that child welfare cases are handled as per the Norwegian Child Welfare Act, which incorporates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“The Act applies to all children in Norway, regardless of their background, residential status or citizenship. The basic principle of the Act is that the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration,” said the statement.

Refusing to go further into the details, the embassy noted that children welfare cases are “highly sensitive” and “are therefore subject to strict duty of confidentiality”.

“The Embassy, therefore, requests restraint and assures that the Norwegian authorities are dealing with the case with complete sensitivity,” it said, adding that public updates will be made available when available.

In Delhi, ministry of external affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that external affairs minster Sushma Swaraj was herself monitoring the case.

He said legal proceedings were currently underway for continuation of the custody by Norway’s child welfare services. “We are informed that the father has engaged a Norwegian lawyer to pursue the matter in the court”.

Swarup said that India can only intervene if there is a formal request made by the mother.

“Given the seriousness of the issue, should we receive a formal representation from the mother, who is an Indian national, our Embassy remains fully prepared to engage with local authorities to impress upon them that this is a humanitarian issue and that the separation of a child from his  parents is a matter of distress to the entire family”.

In 2011, two Indian children were also taken into custody by Norway’s child welfare service after complaints of abuse. After India exerted diplomatic pressure at the highest levels and months of negotiation, they returned to India after an year in foster care.