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:
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.
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.”