Belgian authorities have asked for DNA samples of children adopted from the Democratic Republic of Congo to establish if their biological parents are still alive.
They have contacted the adoptive parents of some 15 children to find out if the youngsters were kidnapped, according to Belgian newspapers. Prosecutors suspect the parents thought they were sending their children to a Kinshasa holiday camp not an orphanage.
The orphanage has since been shut down. “There are only losers in this story and the judge will have to determine where the best interests of the kids lie,” Flemish MP Lorin Parys told the BBC. Thousands of African children have been adopted in recent years from countries including Ethiopia and Uganda.
Fears of child-smuggling in DR Congo prompted the central African country to halt exit permits for adopted children in 2013. Some cases continued to go through because they had already begun. DR Congo has one of the highest rates of orphaned children, but it emerged in 2017 that four children who had been adopted in Belgium had been falsely declared as orphans. All four had been aged between two and four when they were taken to Belgium from the Tumaini orphanage in Kinshasa.
A team of Belgian journalists traced the children’s parents to a town about 850km (530 miles) from the capital Kinshasa.
The parents said their children had been given the opportunity of going with a young organisation to a holiday camp but had never returned.