“Stolen” Spanish babies call for investigation
Summary from a story on The Reader, 27.1.11
An official report compiled by over 250 people believed to have been “stolen” at birth was today presented to the Spanish Attorney General.
All are members of ANADIR (Associacion Nacional de Afectados por Adopciones Ilegales – National Association of People Affected By Illegal Adoptions) and are calling for an official investigation into what happened during Franco’s reign, when hundreds of babies were stolen at birth from their natural mothers by ‘child stealing’ gangs operating in maternity hospitals across Spain.
Initially, it was a system implemented by Franco to take children away from families thought to be politically dangerous to his regime. However, it then developed into an illicit business which a campaign group claims could have continued well into the 1980s.
ANADIR receives calls almost daily from people who suspect that they are one of the stolen babies. Some have been told by their parents that they were bought illegally, but even in this instance, they have no way of tracing their blood parents.
Many elderly people fear that their children, who they were told had died at birth and taken away by doctors and midwives, may in fact be alive and living with other families.
The investigation is led by barrister Enrique Vila, who said: “Our goal is that the Attorney General investigates… each case. We ask that they open a criminal investigation to determine whether what happened was a crime.
“And if so, that the case is sent to the courts for prosecutions to be lodged. Then the work of searching for biological families…is personal.”
Vila has been investigating these cases for over ten years. He found that many children were listed as their parents’ natural children on their birth certificate, although they had no genetic connection and their parents admitted that they had been adopted.
“The documents were faked” he explained. Often, couples were unaware that the children had been stolen from their birth parents. Many confessed that they did pay to be “bumped up” the adoption list, but in the corrupt years of Franco, bribery was so commonplace that it just went unquestioned.
Hospital workers would tell the birth parents that the child had died, yet not allow them to see the corpse. They would be visited by the hospital chaplain and given a quiet service.
False birth certificates would be issued by midwives, false death certificates by doctors, and false burial records by the Church.
Vila does not suggest that there was an institutionalised attempt by the state or the church to steal these babies, but he does say that it appears that this was “easy money” at the time and that no official investigation was ever conducted.
Hundreds of people are now demanding justice, both children and parents.