Australian opposition has called for the return of children stolen in India and now growing up in their adopted homes.
Indian authorities say at least 13 children adopted by Australians were snatched by gangs between 1998 and 1999 and sold for less than $300 to Chennai-based adoption agency Malaysia Social Services.
AdvertisementQueensland Child Safety Minister Margaret Keech told The Sun-Herald her department was told of the allegations last year and it immediately launched an internal audit of all adoption cases involving Indian children between 1995 and 2007.
Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland has also ordered an investigation. It is understood most of the children ended up in Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Tasmania.
''These allegations demonstrate why it is necessary to maintain rigid procedural safeguards to ensure the integrity of the overseas adoption system and, in particular, to avoid the exploitation of children,'' McClelland said.
Federal Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson said Australia had a moral responsibility to return any children found to have been stolen.
''Let us hope the inquiry, in fact, does not find that children have been effectively kidnapped,'' Dr Nelson said.
''And the right thing, we would expect in most cases, will be to look at returning them to their rightful families.''
Minister Keech said she had ordered a fresh review of Queensland's inter-country adoption processes.
The New South Wales Government says no similar cases have been reported in the state.
Keech said her department had contacted the Queensland family concerned and offered support.
''As a mother myself, my heart goes out to them ... this Queensland family has been absolutely devastated by this news, but I also feel for the family in India that has lost a child.''
She said responsibility for the child's adoption rested with the High Court of Madras, which ''endorsed and approved the adoption."
Tony Dunne, president of Inter-country Adoptive Families Queensland, said Australia's adoption processes were extremely rigorous.
He said Australia only dealt with countries that were signatories to The Hague convention on inter-country adoption.
''I am comfortable that children coming to Australia are genuine orphans.''
Figures from the Attorney-General's Department show 327, or 10 per cent, of overseas adoptions between 1997-98 and 2006-07 were from India.
Families who are victims of the adoption racket face the prospect of having to return their child to their biological parents, newspapers said.
But the CBI (India's federal investigative agency) itself is not pressing for the return of the children. Only it would like to check out whether the children in question were indeed stolen and how they were doing now, sources said.