The Permanent Bureau of the HCCH, noting the situation currently unfolding in Ukraine, has published today an Information Note on the subject of Children deprived of their family environment due to the armed conflict in Ukraine: Cross-border protection and intercountry adoption.
In an international armed conflict, many children become separated from their families, losing the critical protection families provide, and finding themselves without basic necessities such as shelter, food and water, as well as without access to education. Many children are forced to leave their homes and their country or may be moved to a safe place. In such situations, the primary concern for these children should be their safety as they are displaced or moved across borders.
The HCCH 1993 Adoption Convention and HCCH 1996 Child Protection Convention provide an important framework for the protection for children in such emergency situations. In case of an armed conflict however, the focus should be on child protection measures other than adoption; the 1996 Child Protection Convention – and not the 1993 Adoption Convention – is therefore better suited to protect these children in such situations. In an emergency situation such as an armed conflict, the risks of illicit practices in intercountry adoption are greater as it can be very difficult or impossible to ensure that adoptions are carried out in line with the guarantees and procedures of the 1993 Adoption Convention, as well as domestic legislation.
In light of the above, in a situation of armed conflict:
- The conflict should not be used as a justification for expediting intercountry adoptions, or for circumventing or disregarding international standards and essential safeguards for safe adoption.
- Adoption procedures should be prohibited from taking place.
Furthermore, even if Ukraine is not a Party to the 1993 Adoption Convention, all receiving States should apply its standards and safeguards when cooperating with Ukraine, including during a situation of armed conflict.