International adoption law: Federal Council sees need for action

Bern, 08.12.2023 - In the past, irregularities in international adoptions occurred to a greater extent than previously known. That is the conclusion of a report commissioned by the Federal Council to analyse adoptions from a total of 10 countries of origin. The Federal Council acknowledged the report at its meeting on 8 December. It acknowledges and regrets that the Swiss authorities despite clear indications failed to take appropriate measures. To prevent such irregularities in the future, international adoption law needs to be revised. An independent group of experts will submit in-depth clarifications to the Federal Council by the end of 2024.

On behalf of the National Council, the Federal Council commissioned an investigation into the practices of private placement agencies and the authorities with regard to adoptions from Sri Lanka. Its report 'Adoptions of children from Sri Lanka in Switzerland, 1973–1997' on the practices of private placement agencies and the authorities' of 11 December 2020 showed that the federal and cantonal authorities had failed to take appropriate measures against irregularities in adoption placements from Sri Lanka despite early and clear indications of such irregularities. The Federal Council has now commissioned a further report entitled ‘Adoptions of children from abroad in Switzerland, 1970s to 1990s: Inventory of documents in the Swiss Federal Archives on ten countries of origin’. This second study by Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) comes to the conclusion that irregularities also occurred here.

Irregularities in other countries

The Federal Council acknowledged the findings of this new study on adoptions from Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, India, Colombia, Korea, Lebanon, Peru and Romania on 8 December. According to the study, there were also indications of illegal practices, child trafficking, falsified documents and missing declarations of origin in these countries of origin. It is not possible to determine based on the files the exact number of people affected. However, the number of entry permits issued suggests that several thousand adopted children could have been affected by irregularities during the period under investigation.

Federal Council expresses its regret to those affected

The Federal Council acknowledges the irregularities in international adoptions and regrets that the authorities did not adequately fulfil their responsibility towards the children and their families. These shortcomings on the part of the authorities continue to shape the lives of adoptees to this day. It is the responsibility of the cantons to support those affected in their efforts to uncover their origins. A report published on 15 November on behalf of the Conference of Cantonal Justice and Police Directors (CCJPD) formulates specific recommendations on how the various responsibilities can be pooled and how those affected can be better supported in their search for their origins. The federal government wants to support the cantons in finding a solution. At the invitation of Federal Councillor Elisabeth Baume-Schneider, representatives from the federal authorities and the cantons are expected to meet in the first half of 2024 to discuss the next steps.

Revision of international adoption law to prevent abuses

It is clear to the Federal Council that such irregularities must no longer be allowed to occur. Even though the federal authorities and the cantons have already done a great deal to make the practice of international adoptions more transparent and secure, an independent group of experts commissioned by the federal government has concluded in an interim report that a revision of international adoption law could significantly reduce the potential for abuse in the future. The Federal Council has taken note of the interim report and instructed the group of experts to submit in-depth clarifications for a revision by the end of 2024.

Address for enquiries

Ingrid Ryser, Federal Office of Justice, T +41 58 462 48 48,


The Federal Council

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Federal Office of Justice