Adoptions from Sri Lanka: pilot project to support adoptees

Bern, 16.05.2022 - The Confederation and the cantons are participating in a pilot project to help adopted persons from Sri Lanka trace their roots. Federal Councillor Karin Keller-Sutter, Head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP), Cantonal Councillor Fredy Fässler, President of the Conference of Cantonal Justice and Police Directors (CCJPD), and Sarah Ineichen, President of Back to the Roots (BttR), signed an agreement to this effect on 16 May 2022 in Bern.

Back to the Roots is an organisation that helps people who were adopted from Sri Lanka in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s find their birth families. The organisation provides various services including, in particular, information on the different options available and on procedures and the authorities responsible. In addition, BttR helps adoptees make requests for information, search for and inspect records in Switzerland and Sri Lanka, and locate persons and establish contacts in Sri Lanka. BttR's services complement those offered by the cantonal authorities.

The Confederation and the cantons have decided to financially support BttR's activities. The three-year pilot project will run as part of Switzerland's migration partnership with Sri Lanka from (retroactively) 1 January 2022 until 31 December 2024. The Confederation and the cantons will base their support on the actual costs incurred; this funding will directly benefit adoptees. Up to CHF 250,000 will be made available per year. The cantons will support in particular the services provided by BttR in Switzerland, while the FDJP will support certain activities carried out abroad.

Misconduct by authorities

The Federal Council authorised investigations into the adoption of children from Sri Lanka to fulfil postulate 17.4181 ‘Bringing light into the darkness. In the 1980s, children from Sri Lanka were illegally adopted in Switzerland'. The resulting report, which was published on 14 December 2020, showed that the federal and cantonal authorities at the time had failed to take appropriate measures against abuse, despite early and clear signs of illegal adoptions from Sri Lanka.

This negligence on the part of the authorities continues to impact adoptees' lives to this day. The Federal Council and the CCJPD expressed their regret that the Confederation and the cantons had failed to fulfil their responsibility towards these children. They also declared their willingness to provide adoptees with even greater support in the search for their birth families.

Further investigations

The Federal Council had commissioned the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) to conduct investigations that would serve as a basis for the postulate report mentioned above. Following the publication of the report, the Federal Council commissioned the ZHAW to conduct additional research into adoptions from ten other countries, to establish whether there are signs of systemic irregularities. The results are expected to be published before the end of the year.

In addition, a group of experts commissioned by the FDJP is examining the systems currently in place for international adoptions, in order to identify any remaining weaknesses in organisation, responsibilities or procedures. The Federal Council intends to propose appropriate amendments to the law to Parliament, should the analysis reveal any flaws.

Address for enquiries

Contact for journalists:
Federal Office of Justice, T +41 58 462 48 48,
CCJPD, Alain Hofer, T +41 79 859 86 48,
Back to the Roots, Celin Fässler, T +41 79 667 65 85,

Contact for people adopted from Sri Lanka:
Back to the Roots,,


Federal Department of Justice and Police

Federal Office of Justice