This is the story of a Nigerian immigrant in Norway, whose five-month old baby was taken away by the Social Welfare Services and given to a foster parent of Norwegian origin. CHARLES KUMOLU reports…
LIKE many African immigrants, when the duo of John Blessing and Emma Mansaray were leaving the shores of the continent for Europe, it never crossed their mind that better social life and unrivalled happiness which they were seeking for would be a mirage.
Though they left their respective countries, Nigeria and Liberia, at different times, destiny brought them together in the city of Drammen, Norway. As people of same race and colour, who share a similar story of harsh socio-economic realities in their respective countries, starting a relationship was not difficult.
The affair which has remained promising till date, eventually produced a baby boy, Emmanuel Precious Okocha in 2013.
For the parents, the birth of baby Okocha brought unmatched happiness. But that joy was shortlived. In broad day light of Tuesday, June 18, 2013, their baby was allegedly taken away from them by Norwegian Child Welfare Services, CWS.
The development has left in its trail, emotional trauma, psychological torture, anger and regrets for both parents.
This is why the father of baby Okocha wants the Federal Government to prevail on the Norwegian authorities to return the baby.
Narrating his predicament to Vanguard Feature,VF, Blessing said: ‘’I am a Nigerian and my fiancee, Emma is a Liberian. We both reside here in Norway. My fiancee gave birth to my son in 2013. After the childbirth, the Social Welfare came into our lives. They said that due to her history with them that they have to take her to a mother and child home, in Vilde Horten where they said she will be put to test and see if she is fit to be a mother and raise the child.
‘’The rule in the mother and child home is that if they don’t think you are fit to take care of your child, you are told after a month. But that was not the case with my fiancee. She was there for three months and nothing was found wrong with her, ‘’ he stated.
We will never see our baby again: He further said: ‘’The day she was supposed to go home, they said she should stay for an extra month, that the baby appeared stressed. And he was just four months at the time. She agreed to stay for a month more. On Tuesday June 18, 2013 they came and told my fiancee that they were taking my son away from her and she would going home without the baby. They claimed that the baby was stressed and needed help.’’
In addition, John said: ‘’On Thursday June 18, 2013 we had a meeting for the last time, but they later came with Police to take our child. I asked where the child was being taken to and who was going to be raising the child. They brought a young boy in his late twenties and said he’s going to be the one to take care of our boy and we will never see him again.’’
He further said: ‘’I am pleading with the Nigerian Government to assist in getting back my son, else the baby will suffer the fate of others who had been forcefully taken away from their biological parents and given to Norwegian citizens. We are not the only people who have been treated like this. They take our babies and give them to foster parents and that would be the end of the story. I need my son. I am aware the House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora assists Nigerians in such difficult situations. I am one of those Nigerians; I need every possible help to reunite with my baby.’’
Corroborating, John’s story, Emma said: ‘’I need help; there is so much injustice going on here in Norway. I came to Norway as a refugee, in search of peace but we have been living in sorrow, worry and fear. Fear of the government, police and child welfare. Our children are being used as business. Many homes are broken while most mothers are lonely.
‘’I am a mother of five. Four girls and a boy. I need help. I came to Norway in March 20, 2004 with my three children. Jenneh Brima 9 years, Yei Mansaray 4 years and Elizabeth Kenneh 7 months old. We were living in a city, Hedmark, for a short time ; we then later moved to another city call Alta where my children and I live until they were wrongly taking away from me by the child welfare.’’
Allegations of abduction: Continuing, she said: ‘’This has been going on for many years. We came to this country to find peace but it has been a very bad experience for us. We want the world to know what is going on. We need justice, we need someone who is going to stand , investigate and fight for us. We are many; I have many people in line waiting to receive help,’’ she added.
This is happening in the wake of a high-profile custody international battle over two Indian children living in Norway.
The authorities claimed that there was emotional disconnect between the kids and parents.
Meanwhile, further investigations revealed that the practice of removing children from their parents, is not strange in the Scandinavian country.
According to Wikipedia: ‘’The Service has been severely criticized by the Government of India for taking away two children of an Indian couple who are working in Norway. Berit Aarset, who heads Human Rights Alert, Norway, has called the incident “state kidnapping.” She said: “This is not the first time such a thing is happening in Norway.
The legal system favours the Child Welfare Services and they do what they want all the time. Quite often when a Norwegian is married to a non-Norwegian they also do the same thing; they also do this to asylum seekers and in almost every case they say one of the parents have a mental problem just to make their case strong …that is what has happened in the Bhattacharya case too.”
It further said, ‘’The Child Welfare Services were accused of abduction of two Turkish-Norwegian Kids from Turkey using a private investigator. The children were handed to the foster parents who stayed with their parents. Some time later, the foster father was arrested for child sex abuse clearly demonstrating the ineptitude of the child welfare services. Another incident involved a Russian citizen living in Norway.
Her shocking statements took many newspapers’ front pages: “During the court hearings, the judge told me: ‘We give you residence permit, and you give us your son.’ I refused, and then the repressions started. Many times in past Child Welfare Services have been accused on violation of human rights for taking away children from their parents.’’
Another report by an online news medium, ICE News, said more immigrant families are moving out of Norway in order to avoid issues with the country’s CWS. “According to a report published by The Foreigner news, as many as one in six immigrant children are now either taken out of the country or sent back alone to be with family abroad. However, the actual number remains unknown, as there have been no accredited studies on the matter,’’ the report stated.
Child Welfare Act of 1992: However, checks indicated that the CWS in Norway was established by the Child Welfare Act of July 17, 1992 to ensure that children and young people who live in conditions that can harm their health and development are given the necessary help and care at the right time.
The Act also stated how and when a child can be taken away.
In Section 4-17 the law said: ‘’Removing a child from the home without parental consent requires a decision from the County Committee for Social Affairs on the basis of a recommendation submitted by the municipal authorities. The county committee is a government body with an autonomous position in relation to the ministry and the Office of the County Governor. Decisions taken by the county committee may only be overturned by the courts. The county committees are administered under the auspices of the Ministry of Children and Equality.’’