Sri Lankan Adoptees Sue the Netherlands for Negligence

The global trend of adult international adoptees suing their governments for negligence and fraud continues. In the Netherlands, adoptees from Sri Lanka are seeking reimbursement for damages they allege occurred in their adoptions.

Here is the English version of an article from, a well-known new organization in the Netherlands.

“Sri Lankan adoptees hold the State liable for abuses

Eight adoptees sued the State for negligence in their adoption from Sri Lanka in the 1980s. They argue that the government did not intervene when it could have known about the many abuses. The adoptees want the government to recognize this negligence and reimburse the costs they incurred to trace their origins.

“We want the court to determine that the government is liable for the damage suffered by these eight people,” says lawyer Mark de Hek, who initiated legal proceedings on behalf of the victims. With this, the hope is that justice will also be served for other adoptees in a similar situation.

Kidnapping and baby farming

It has been known for decades that a lot went wrong with adoptions from Sri Lanka. The first signals date back to 1979. Since then, stories about wrong files, baby theft, so-called baby farms and human trafficking have regularly surfaced. In 1987, a Sri Lankan survey found that the vast majority of adoptions were illegal.

The fact that the Dutch state was repeatedly informed of abuses from Sri Lanka from the early 1980s was apparent from the report of the Joustra Committee in 2021. At the request of the government, that committee investigated the role of the Netherlands in intercountry adoption. The abuses included baby farming and child theft. According to the committee, the Netherlands did not intervene and the government did not come up with solutions.

It was not until 1997 that these adoptions came to an end. Between 1973 and 1997, a total of about 3400 children from Sri Lanka were brought to the Netherlands. More than 2400 children came to the Netherlands through the Flash mediation agency, which, according to experts, was the crowning glory when it comes to illegal adoption practices.

Fake Mother in Photo

As a result of these practices, many adoptees have questions about their origins. For example, 31-year-old Serani van der Helm from Helmond has a photo of herself in the arms of a woman, made in Colombo during the adoption in 1986. “My file says that it was my mother who voluntarily gave me up. But that turned out to be a fake mother.”

Van der Helm talks about her search for her biological parents, whom she never found:

Serani: ‘When I became a mother myself, adoption suddenly felt very different to me’
Sam van den Haak from Zevenaar also has many questions about her adoption. In her adoption file, her date of birth is April 7, her passport says July 4, so exactly the other way around. Her old Sri Lankan passport has had a pen tampered with, making it unclear what the correct date is. “That should have been enough reason for the State to smell trouble.” Only much later when she had managed to track down her family on her own, did her grandmother tell her that she was actually born on December 17th.

Van den Haak herself calls it painful that there is an incorrect date of birth in her passport. “Do you know how many times your date of birth is asked to identify you? Then I keep being confronted with that embarrassing mistake.” But changing that data is almost impossible in the Netherlands. With the lawsuit, she hopes to get the government to help her get her real date of birth in her passport.

‘Government failed’

Lawyer De Hek calls these clear indications of negligence on the part of the government. The government has previously denied all liability. “The embassy must ensure that an adoption is legally in order before a residence permit is granted,” says De Hek. “By ignoring the signals about this, the government has failed as a regulator and visa provider.”

Here is the link to the article in Dutch:

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