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U.S. Department of State
1995:  International Adoption -- Former Yugoslavia
Bureau of Consular Affairs

     FOREIGN COUNSEL.                                                
         The Department of State shares your humanitarian concern
     for the children of the former Yugoslavia and applauds your
     desire to assist them in their time of need.  However, at this
     point in time, adopting children from this region is not a
     feasible way to assist them.  In particular, Bosnian children
     are not adoptable.  There are a number of reasons for this.  In
     general, adoptions are private legal matters governed by the
     rules of the nation where the child resides.  The laws in the
     former Yugoslavia gave priority to adoptions by Yugoslavians,
     and made the adoption of Yugoslavian children by foreigners
     very difficult.  This has not changed.  All of the republics of
     the former Yugoslavia permit foreigners to adopt children only
     in exceptional and compelling circumstances.  In practice, such
     circumstances are limited to cases involving either
     step-parent/step-child relationships or handicapped children. 
     We are not aware of any indications at present that the new
     states plan to liberalize their laws on adoptions to make it
     easier for foreigners to adopt.
         Also, in a country which is in turmoil, it can be difficult
     to determine whether children whose parents are missing are
     truly orphans according to adoption and immigration
     regulations.  It is not uncommon in a war situation for parents
     and children to become separated when parents place their
     children in institutions or send them out of the area in an
     effort to ensure their safety.  In such instances, the children
     are not orphans.  Even when children have been truly orphaned
     or abandoned by their parents, they are often taken in by
     relatives.  It is our understanding that efforts are being made
     to avoid uprooting the children.

         Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics reflect the following
     pattern for visa issuance to orphans: 
                  IR-3 Immigrant Visas       IR-4 Immigrant Visas
     Fiscal       Issued to Yugoslav         Issued to Yugoslav 
     Year         Orphans Adopted Abroad     Orphans Adopted in U.S.
     FY-1988              3                          0
     FY-1989              8                          1
     FY-1990              9                          0
     FY-1991              9                          3
     FY-1992              7                          0
     FY-1993              9                          3

                            POLICY ON EVACUATION
     Evacuation of children from former Yugoslavia:
     1.  There continues to be well meant efforts by government and
     non-government organizations to evacuate children from conflict
     areas, particularly Sarajevo.  UNHCR presents the following key
     considerations which must be taken into account when evacuation
     of children is being contemplated.
     2.  There are not more than 600,000 children under six years of
     age in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 281,000 of whom are in besieged
     cities, including 80,000 in Sarajevo.  Given these numbers, it
     is clear that all children cannot be evacuated.  Any evacuation
     which selects some children over others should be based on
     clear criteria regarding compelling need and should not be done
     in such a way to exacerbate ethnic tensions and conflict.
     3.  The primary mission of the airlifts is to bring desperately
     needed food and relief into Sarajevo for the besieged
     population.  Furthermore, sufficient security between the city
     and airport does not exist for the use of the airlift for
     evacuation.  In light of this security situation and in an
     effort to maintain the fragile airlift operation, United
     Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) and UNHCR have delineated a
     policy that only those persons whose medical situation is
     life-threatening and who cannot be treated with the facilities
     available in Sarajevo should be considered for evacuation by
     the airlift.  Procedural guidelines for evacuation by airlift
     of such medical referral cases, including children, have been
     4.  Several factors indicate that evacuation is not the most
     appropriate solution.  In fact, evaluations of past evacuations
     have shown that evacuation often is more harmful that helpful
     to the children involved.  These are some of the reasons:
         The trauma of being separated from the family is often
         greater than the trauma of remaining with the family in an
         area affected by hostilities and conflict.
         Initiative for evacuation often come from evacuation
         organizers rather than from parents whose emotional stress
         in the duress of the situation may result in decisions
         which might not have been taken otherwise.
         Evacuations of children are often conceived as mainly
         logistical operation and may not necessarily be carried
         out by groups that have a proven record in child welfare,
         including assessing the best interest of the child, and
         in-placement experience.
         There is great risk, particularly where large numbers are
         involved and there is lack of resources, that the
         situation of the child will not be adequately documented
         and monitored.  Children may become "lost" without the
         possibility of eventual return to their families.
         Length of separation is usually much longer than expected
         and may lead to estrangement of families and a loss of
         ethnic and cultural identity.
         Where displacement and ethnic relocation are goals of the
         hostilities, parties might be pressured to evacuate
         children for this purpose.  
         Unexpected political complications may prejudice the 
         outcome of evacuations.  Whether the children are invited   
         into a country, and when and if they return may become 
         political issues, particularly where proper groundwork has 
         not been done.
     5.  No child should be moved without his/her primary
     caretaker.  Respect for family unity is a guiding principle,
     clearly stated in the convention on the rights of the child. 
     Every effort must be made so that the family unit remains
     intact and the child is not separated from the family.
     6.  Every effort should be made to trace the parents or other
     close relatives of unaccompanied minors before evacuation is
     considered.  Unaccompanied minors are minors who are separated
     from both parents and are not being cared for by an adult who
     has responsibility to do so.
     7.  Adoption should not be considered if (a) there is hope of
     successful tracing or evidence that the parents are still
     alive, (b) it is against the expressed wishes of the child or
     the parent, or (c) unless a reasonable time (at least two
     years) was passed to allow for tracing information to be
     gathered.  Staying with relatives in extended family units may
     be a better solution than uprooting the child completely.
     8.  The issue of children occupying orphanages before the
     outbreak of hostilities and who can be clearly documented as
     orphans deserves special attention.  Thorough assessment of the
     status of these children is very important and very difficult. 
     Recent incidents have shown that alleged orphans proved to have
     parents.  Many unaccompanied children have living parents or
     close relatives with whom they may one day be reunited.  If the
     status of an alleged orphan cannot be clearly documented, there
     is a risk of creating further problems of family reunification
     and tracing across country borders after hostilities have ended.
     9.  To be clarified before any evacuation of a child:
         A.  Conditions of release and custody placement (identity
         of the child, documentation, family history, issuance and
         preservation of records);
         B.  Conditions of admission and care in receiving country;
         C.  Measures to ensure/preserve relationships and
         communication with original family/original care taker;
         D.  Provisions for family reunion in the context of a
         durable solution.
     10.  Unless the above factors are carefully considered and
     implemented, UNHCR will not endorse evacuations and/or request
     or advise governments or non-government organizations to
     evacuate children.  UNHCR, with other humanitarian agencies on
     the ground, will continue to do everything possible to improve
     medical and social conditions locally so that the safety and
     integrity of the child is preserved within his or her family
     and community.  
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