Ukrainian authorities believe that orphans and children from orphanages are relocated against their will. This is revealed in an urgent note to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But Ukraine does not specify whether it has happened in Norway.
A majority of the 7,779 Ukrainian children who have come here during the war have fled with their mothers and fathers. But nearly 400 unaccompanied minor Ukrainians have also come to Norway.
The Ukrainian authorities are worried about these. In July, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) received a diplomatic note from the Ukrainian embassy. It was about children being separated from their Ukrainian caregivers after fleeing their homeland.
The letter states that 9,768 orphans or children in institutions and foster families are outside Ukraine. But for several refugee children, problems have arisen abroad that “require a quick response and urgent measures”, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Social Affairs.
– Guardians are not allowed to meet about placed children
It is stated in the note that Ukrainian guardians have been replaced and that local authorities have appointed others as guardians for Ukrainian children.
“This has led to children being separated from their foster families and permanently placed with foreign families. In some cases, the Ukrainian caregivers are not involved in decisions concerning the children. Many legal guardians also do not get the opportunity to meet the children, who may live in different places,” says the note sent to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Relocation has taken place even though the children want to be reunited with their families and relatives, claims the Ministry of Social Affairs.
“Separation from their Ukrainian families makes the children unsafe. And this affects their mental health. Confusing and unclear future prospects can lead to children becoming unruly and acting out,” the note warns.
It is not specified whether this has occurred in Norway or in other countries that have accepted refugees.
Acting ambassador to Norway, Vyacheslav Yatsiuk, will not elaborate on the background for the letter.
– This was an inquiry to the Norwegian authorities, not to the Norwegian public. I cannot comment on such communication between the Ukrainian and Norwegian authorities, he says.
Avtenposten has also asked several questions about the letter to the Ukrainian Ministry of Social Affairs, without receiving an answer.
– May have been separated during mapping
The government is now working to respond to the Ukrainian embassy.
The Ministry of Children and Families (BFD) states that 390 unaccompanied minor Ukrainians have arrived in Norway since 24 February.
– We have received no information indicating that Ukrainian children, who have come to Norway as a result of the war, are separated from guardians or other caregivers appointed by the Ukrainian authorities, says communications adviser Thea Finstad.
The ministry has also asked the Directorate for Children, Youth and Families (Bufdir) to review Norwegian child welfare cases.
– Bufdir is not aware of Ukrainian guardians or guardians being denied contact with Ukrainian children staying in Norway. However, it cannot be ruled out that the Norwegian authorities may have temporarily separated children from their guardians/guardians in cases where there is a lack of information that these are actually the children’s guardians, i.e. until the relationship has been mapped or confirmed by the Ukrainian authorities, Finstad replies in an email mail.
She points out that various public bodies have been instructed to make sure that people who come to Norway with children actually have the right to be with the child.
– It is important to prevent the children from becoming victims of human trafficking or from being abducted from their carers.
The Ukrainian ambassador has previously warned against the relocation or adoption of refugee children in Norway. The embassy was therefore briefed on Norwegian child protection practices in a meeting in March. Here, the Norwegian authorities assured that the adoption of children from Ukraine in a situation of war is out of the question.
Norway did not want to pick up children
Before the war, there were around 100,000 children in institutions in Ukraine. A number of countries offered to accept these children.
But in an emergency resolution, Ukraine demanded that recipient countries guarantee that children would not be adopted or relocated – and that the children would be returned after the war.
Norway therefore did not pick up children without carers from Ukraine. It was right, says director for children’s rights and sustainability at Unicef, Kristin Oudmayer.
– The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child applies to all children on Norwegian territory. Therefore, the child’s best interests govern all decisions.
Oudmayer also points out that the Norwegian authorities have strict procedures for mapping family connections for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers.
The UNICEF director understands why the children are important to the Ukrainian authorities. A long war in which large parts of the population are abroad could threaten the nation’s future.
– In a way, the country is in danger of losing almost a generation of children and young people. The young people are important in terms of rebuilding the country.