US Immigration and Naturalization Service officials met with two Cambodian ministers in Phnom Penh last week to discuss an investigation into baby trafficking that has led to the temporary suspension of all US adoptions in Cambodia.
The talks centered on measures that could ensure that so-called orphans in Phnom Penh are not victims of unscrupulous traffickers, said US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann, who participated in the meetings.
Allegations surfaced last year that traffickers stole children from their parents, or told them that their children would be cared for at a center in Phnom Penh. The INS indefinitely suspended the issuing of adoption visas for Cambodian children on Dec 21.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong and Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Ith Sam Heng met with three INS agents and additional staff from the US Embassy in Phnom Penh. Wiedemann said existing laws and subdecrees would prevent child trafficking if they were enforced.
Washington-based INS Commissioner James Ziglar is drafting changes to international adoption procedures to better ensure that the children US parents adopt really are orphans.
Ziglar wants prospective parents to apply for a visa for the child before traveling abroad. The application would trigger a background check on the child and allow officials to determine if the child has been trafficked before the parents meet the child.
Currently, the background check is among the last procedures, occurring after the parents have met the child and are preparing to return home.
Adoptions should resume eventually, Wiedemann said, although no date has been set. The US government wants to allow adoptions because to prevent them permanently would be “inhumane,” Wiedemann said.
“We’ve always known there are plenty of real orphans in this country so adoptions are a good thing for everybody,” he said.
(Additional reporting by The Associated Press.)