A United Nations watchdog is concerned that travel and certification documents issued by Irish authorities to couples who want to adopt children abroad “lack specificity and can be easily falsified.”
The observation is in a report on Ireland by special rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Ms de Boer-Buquicchio was highlighting Ireland’s use of immigration clearance letters (ICLs), instead of a visa, to facilitate the entry into Ireland of a foreign-born child who is being adopted by an Irish couple.
Ireland is almost unique internationally in not requiring a visa for a child being taken in from abroad for the purpose of adoption. Instead, these children are brought into the country by means of ICLs, issued to prospective adoptive couples by the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS).
In her report, published last March, Ms de Boer-Buquicchio said she was concerned that ICLs did not contain enough security features. She said that “travel and certification documents used for children adopted internationally lack specificity and can easily be falsified.”
Responding to the criticism, the Department of Justice said that 53 ICLs have been issued in the last two years and that “these letters contain security features, including photographic identification”, and that they must be surrendered to immigration authorities at the port of entry to the State.
“The Department of Justice and Equality met with the UN special rapporteur in the course of her visit to Ireland last summer,” said the Department of Justice in a statement.
We note her recommendations and will continue to keep issues of security and confidentiality, which we take very seriously, under constant review.
The department refused to comment on what, if any, additional security features are contained on current ICLs or whether security features have ever been updated. While just 53 such letters have been issued in the last two years, thousands of ICLs were issued between 2003 and 2013.
Up until 2010, when Ireland ratified the Hague Convention, the Irish Examiner is aware that the letter had no specific security features, other than being laminated. It contained the names and photograph of the adoptive parents, stating that they were eligible to adopt from a named country. The couple did not even have to have been referred a specific child, before applying for and receiving an ICL.
Since 2010 and Ireland’s ratification of the Hague Convention, the details of the child are now included on an ICL. The Adoption Authority of Ireland (AAI) now must also have sanctioned the placement of a specific child, before an ICL is issued.
Between 2003 and May of 2013, 6,088 ICLs were issued to adoptive parents — a period when just 3,710 children were registered in the foreign adoptions register and 3,673 declarations of eligibility and suitability to adopt were issued to adoptive parents.
The AAI has previously explained this discrepancy by pointing out that couples could be issued multiple letters per adoption, due to an extension to their declaration or a change of country. However, it declined to issue a breakdown of the exact number of ICLs issued per every adoption registered.