Once again, the women (many of whom, in this case, were believed to be prostitutes) were promised money and then taken out of Bulgaria in order to give birth. In this case, however, the country of destination--the country where their children would be sold and illegally "adopted"--was France instead of Greece.
In these cases, unlike those involving Greece, it does appear that the women, prior to being taken abroad, had been told that they would be giving up their babies for adoption.
In order to avoid paperwork snafus, when giving birth in France the Bulgarian mothers routinely did so under the alias of the adoptive mothers. (Incidentally adoptive mothers are routinely called "buyers" throughout the European press reports). In this way adoptive parents were listed birth parents. No adoption proceedings or adoption papers were necessary.
Promised large amounts of money for their babies, the women instead received "only a fraction of the money promised them." According to press reports, individual babies sold for sums between 5000 and 7500 euros ($6700 US to $10,000 US). Bulgarian mothers were given a couple of hundred of these euros while the traffickers took the rest.
Additionally, adding yet another twist to the human trafficking and exploitation tale, after giving birth, many of the Bulgarian women were allegedly forced (by the trafficking network) to work in France as prostitutes or beggars.
France has aggressively investigated and prosecuted this case, presumably as a deterrent to those who would replicate the practices of this child trafficking ring or seek to buy children from involved in such schemes
Most of the purchasers of the babies were infertile couples. Many were Roma or gypsies who under French law, because of their nomadic life style, are not allowed to adopt through normal French adoption channels.
A defense lawyer, David-Olivier Kaminski, said the couples had been forced into a corner because France did not allow couples with roaming lifestyles to adopt children.In Bobigny, a suburb of Paris, in late January 2007, France began prosecuting the cases; in February 2007, convictions and sentences were handed down.
"These are French citizens, Gypsies, desperate to have children, who had no hope of meeting these strict adoption criteria," he said.
--from a Feb 2007 article in the BBC "Baby-smugglers jailed in France"
The French authorities sought 11 members of the child trafficking ring. Three were not apprehended because they had fled, but were nevertheless tried "in absentia." All were convicted of "trading in human beings" and sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to six years. Five "ringleaders" received sentences of five or six years in prison. The remaining six "organizers" received sentences of two to five years.
Forty-one adoptive parents were also tried, convicted, and sentenced for their part in the scheme--for illegally "purchasing" the babies. Thirty-four adoptive parents received jail sentences ranging from six months to one year which were then suspended. Four adoptive parents received non-suspended jail terms of up to one year. One parent received a fine. Only two parents escaped sentencing altogether. Forty of the parents on trial were reportedly Roma (gypsy).
According to at least one press report, Bulgarian birthmothers were also prosecuted in the cases. However, press reports detailing convictions and sentences do not mention them. Without additional press reports in English, it is impossible to know whether any of them were convicted and whether they too received punishment for their part in these cases.
Babies originally taken into governmental protective custody when the case was uncovered, have been returned to their adoptive parents who will be allowed to keep them. Many have been allowed to begin legal proceedings to adopt the children.
Press reports include the following description of how one baby was sold and her existence reported to the legal authorities:
An 83-year-old man described buying a baby girl named Cinderella for his granddaughter in testimony on Wednesday in an infant trafficking trial in France.One wonders just how much of a deterrent such prosecutions will be when adoptive parents are ultimately allowed to keep the children they purchased....
The grandfather — referred to only by his first name, Jean — said he bought the baby in October, 2002, from a foreign Roma couple that passed by his house with the infant in their arms. He said he paid them €4,500 (US$5,850) for the baby girl, called Cendrillon, French for Cinderella.
Jean, a French Roma, said he bought the infant for his granddaughter — who could not have children because she and her husband are related. The couple registered the baby as their own, saying she had been born in their caravan.
--from a Jan 24, 2007 article in the International Herald Tribune, "83-year-old man tells of buying infant in France baby trafficking trial"
In the future the cost and difficulty of court prosecution may well simply be factored into the cost of purchasing and procuring a child.
Perhaps France (as well as the rest of us) will have also learned a lesson about the lengths to which couples will go to procure a child.
Perhaps France will also consider dispensing with prejudices and opening up legal adoption to Roma citizens.
For myself, I am left wondering about whether the infertile and others have the "right" to adopt, the "right" to a child. Afterall, this is the lawyer's defense argument as quoted in the newspapers. It is the justification for the adoptive parents' willingness to illegally purchase children and lie about their true origins.
Where there is such intense demand for human babies can human trafficking for adoption really be stopped? Where such intense demand exists, is adoption really, as the rhetoric goes, for the children?
How do the rights of the child as set forth in the International Treaty on the Rights of the Child interplay with any of this?
Child Trafficking Trial Involving Bulgarian Network Starts in France, January 22, 2007
French baby-smuggling case begins, BBC News, January 22, 2007
83-year-old man tells of buying infant in France baby trafficking trial, International Herald Tribune, January 24, 2007
Dozens go on trial in Paris for baby trafficking, International Herald Tribune, January 22, 2007
Alleged baby traffickers on trial in France, January 22, 2007
Baby-smugglers jailed in France, BBC News, 2 Feb 2007
Adoptive Parents in France Defend System of Buying Babies, International Herald Tribune, July 27, 2007