Even as Indian couple Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya anxiously await the verdict of a district court in Norway on the question of the custody of their children, a Sri Lankan family is facing a similar situation in the country.
The Bhattacharyas have been battling the Child Welfare Services in Stavenger since May last year and it was only after the intervention of the Government of India that an agreement was reached to hand over three-year-old Abhigyan and one-year-old Aishwarya to their uncle.
The children of Joseph and Jacqueline Mario, who migrated to Norway 20 years ago, have been taken away and put into foster care by the authorities of the Child Welfare Services in Bergen since November last year, Mr. Mario told The Hindu over telephone from Bergen.
“One day we suddenly receive a telephone call asking us to come to the office of the Child Welfare Services to meet our children. And from that day on, our children were put into foster care,” Mr. Mario said, adding that the children were taken away from school.
He claimed that 12-year-old Marlin and 8-year-old Meloni were being kept in separate foster homes for the last four months and the two could only meet each other in school.
Mr. Mario said the Bhattacharyas' case has generated much publicity and the former realised that their children had been taken away on similar grounds.
“We were told that we did not know how to raise our children. Our son and daughter shared the same room and slept on the same bed, which the Child Welfare Services objected to,” he said, adding that their plea of “cultural differences” was not accepted.
He said other charges including “giving the children too much chocolate” had been raised in the 100-page report given to them.
“Our son and daughter really miss us. Each time a visit is scheduled, they bring little gifts — flowers or some artwork they have done in school — for us. They tell us over and over again that they love us and ask when they will be coming home,” he said.
He said the family was allowed to meet twice a week initially, but of late the frequency of the visits had been reduced by the child care which said “they were tiring for the children.”
At present, the couple are following the instructions of the officials of the Child Welfare Services to find out how they may bring the children back home, Mr. Mario said.
While the Government of India was able to intervene in the Bhattacharyas' case, the Marios face a tougher challenge ahead because they are Norwegian citizens. While Mr. Mario and the children only carry a Norwegian passport, Mrs. Mario retains her Sri Lankan passport along with a Norwegian one. Attempts to contact officials of the Child Welfare Services in Bergen yielded no results.