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Page last updated at 12:56 GMT, Wednesday, 4 November 2009

S Leone fury at 'forced adoption'

Sierra Leonean children in refugee camp, 2001
Thousands of children were forced to flee during the civil war

A group of parents in Sierra Leone has accused a charity of sending more than 30 children abroad for adoption without consent during the country's civil war.

The parents say they have no idea what happened to their children after they were handed over to Help a Needy Child International (Hanci).

But the charity says it has documents signed by the parents giving permission for overseas adoption.

Sierra Leone was devastated by a decade of civil war, which ended in 2002.

Children were frequently abducted and forced to fight in the brutal conflict.

'Convoluted issue'

The BBC's Umaru Fofana, in the capital Freetown, says the parents have been lobbying the government for years to find out what happened to their children.

He says they have become frustrated with what they see as a lack of action from ministers, so have taken their campaign to the media.

So many years have elapsed so I have to take my time to look at it very carefully
Soccoh Kabbia
Minister of children's affairs

One parent told our correspondent how she agreed to let Hanci care for and educate her children at a local centre to save them from the war.

"We regularly visited our children at the centre until some time in 1998 when we stopped seeing them," she said.

"We went to Freetown to find out what had happened, and we were told they had sent our children overseas and they would be visiting us every five years.

"We want the government to intervene and let us have our children back."

The parents of more than 30 children make similar allegations.

But Hanci director Roland Kargbo denies the claims, saying the charity obtained written consent from the parents whose children were sent overseas.

"There were two agreements - one for children to be cared for and reintegrated into the community locally, and another for parents who wanted their children to be adopted," he told the BBC.

"The parents know that, we have documents to support that."

Minister of Children's Affairs Soccoh Kabbia says the government is still investigating the issue.

"It is a convoluted story because so many years have elapsed so I have to take my time to look at it very carefully," he said.

The children are believed to have been adopted by American families.



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