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Norway Child Welfare Service faces growing global protests
The Facebook group 'Norway, Give Us Back the Children You Stole' says more than 60,000 people have protested against Barnevernet in cities around the world, including Prague shown here. Photo: Norway,

Norway Child Welfare Service faces growing global protests

The Local · 12 Feb 2016, 10:41

Published: 12 Feb 2016 10:41 GMT+01:00
Updated: 12 Feb 2016 10:41 GMT+01:00

A high-profile case in which five children were removed from their parents’ care by the Barnevernet in November has reignited international criticism of the Norwegian child welfare service.

After news of the case spread internationally, supporters of the children's parents of the children, who have a Norwegian mother and a Romanian father, organised petitions as well as demonstrations in the United States and several European countries, as well as in a number of Romanian towns

An anti-Barnevernet Facebook page claims that over 60,000 people have demonstrated against the agency since January:

 

More than 60 000 people attended our protests! THANK YOU!#stopbarnevernet #unitedwestand #reunitefamilybodnariu

Posted by Norway, Give Us Back the Children You Stole on Thursday, February 11, 2016

The activists are now gearing up for an international day of action on April 16th.

The Norwegian-Romanian couple were separated from their children after being charged with violence against minors. According to a report in VG, the parents admitted during an interview on Romanian television to having smacked their children on the backside and pulled them by their ears, despite being aware that disciplining children physically is illegal in Norway.

Supporters of the couple have claimed via Romanian media that the Norwegian state is discriminating against them due to their Pentecostal Christian beliefs.

“Barnevernet may also have been motivated, in seizing the children, by an anti-religious animus towards the family,” lawyer Peter Costea said in a blog post published by the site culturavietti.ro. Costea also claims that the "religious rights" of the couple may have been violated.

“The way Barnevernet has acted in this cased has provoked all of us. We are now intensifying our work towards a day of action [on April 16th], as well as spreading information about the case to politicians,” pastor Cristian Ionescu, the spokesperson for the movement behind the petition and demonstrations, told VG.

Video footage of the children being removed as been viewed over 200,000 times. Because many will find the video very painful to watch, The Local has not embedded it but you can view it here.

The current international controversy is hardly the first of its kind Norway has faced. Citizens of Poland, Russia, Lithuania, India, and Brazil, among other countries, have accused Norway of abusing authority and ruining families.

Czech president Miloš Zeman went as far as to compare Norway's foster care system to Nazi Germany's Lebensborn adoption system and asked King Harald V to intervene in the case of a Czech mother whose two Czech boys were forcibly taken into care.

Other parents have said that the Norwegian authorities take children for very questionable reasons, including a Lithuanian woman who accused Barnevernet of taking her child into care because she was forced to “wear a pretty dress” and a Brazilian mother who said the authorities tried to forcibly take her child because she didn't feed her daughter in the Norwegian way.
 
In 2011, another case received considerable coverage when the Norwegian child welfare authority took two Indian children into care, a decision the children's parents claimed was taken because they fed them by hand and slept together with them in the same bed, both entirely normal in India. The authorities released the two children a year later to be cared by the couple's uncle in India
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According to the latest available statistics 6,737 children were taken into care in 2012, some 1,049 were immigrants or born to immigrant parents.

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry confirmed that a number of its embassies have experienced demonstrations and email campaigns.

“We have tried to publish factual information on how Barnevernet works and its legal framework, but it’s not a simple job, since we’re dealing with a campaign that willfully distorts the facts,” spokesperson Frode Andersen told VG.

“In a Norwegian context, such accusations [of Nazism] appear to be obviously unfair,” Andersen continued. “At the same time, we are seeing these cases used in domestic competitions to see who can make the harshest criticisms of Norway.”

For more news from Norway, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.no)

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