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Monday, 31 July, 2000, 19:14 GMT 20:14 UK
Call to halt baby trade
Cambodian child
Stolen, bought or just given away
By the BBC's Tom Hagler

The United Nations children's fund (Unicef) has called for worldwide action to stop the growing trade in selling babies for adoption.

It says the situation is getting out of control, with many adoptions part of a growing illegal industry.

If you look on the internet it is easy to find 10-day-old children

Rudi Tarneden, Unicef spokesman
Most of the children come from developing countries and are sold to couples in the developed world trying to get around tough adoption laws at home.

Many of them, it says, are willing to pay $20,000 or more for a baby.

Booming trade

At its press conference in Berlin, Unicef also voiced concern about the legality of adoptions from eastern Europe and Russia.

Vietnamese child
The Vietnamese Government has imprisoned people for selling babies
In the relatively poor central American country of Guatemala, selling babies is big business.

According to Unicef, the trade is worth an estimated $25m a year.

Some of the adoptions are considered legitimate, but many more are part of a thriving and unscrupulous adoption industry.

Rudi Tarneden, spokesman for Unicef Germany, says the international community needs to act now.

"This process is becoming more and more out of control and we see a problem that this inter-country adoption market is now through private channels," he said.

Young child
Unicef says the process is getting out of control
"If you look on the internet it is easy to find 10-day-old children and more and more couples from industrialised countries use this channel."

The problem does not just exist in central America.

Earlier this year, a court in Vietnam sentenced 12 people to prison for selling new-born babies to foreign couples abroad.

Eastern Europe

Unicef has also voiced concern about the legality of adoptions from eastern Europe, especially Russia.

How these children end up for sale varies.

Some are stolen, some are sold by their parents for money and some are willingly given up for hopes of a better life abroad.

Unicef says it does not have any exact figures for the illegal trade.

But it says the responsibility for tackling it lies not just with governments but with prospective parents themselves.

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See also:

31 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Vietnam jails baby smugglers
03 Mar 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Shopping for Romanian babies
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