A young Portuguese filmmaker is possibly the first person to upload a film in English on the practice of ‘forced adoptions’ threatening 154 Portuguese families living in the UK.
Catarina Rodrigues’ “The Ones Who Fight” can be found on Youtube, and uses 8.45 minutes to take the issue that has inflamed public opinion in Portugal to a potentially much wider audience.
It uses simple language and short sentences to highlight an insidious practice that McKenzie Friend activist (lay legal advisor) Sabine McNeill has described many times as “simply unbelievable”.
“The UK adopts more children against the birth parents’ wishes than any other European country”, explains Rodrigues’ film.
“McKenzie Friends fight the English justice system in hopes that they get a fair hearing.
“Those that speak out are threatened into silence and even arrested”.
The short film comes at an extremely opportune time. In November, a group of Portuguese lawyers alerted to the practice travelled to the UK to try and help the increasing number of nationals who had suddenly found themselves at risk of losing their children (click here), and (click here).
As the lawyer leading the initiative explains in the film, emigrés are often caught out by a system they simply do not understand.
They need to “get informed about what they can do, and what they should not do”, Pedro Proença tells Rodrigues from his office in Lisbon.
“The Children’s Act of 1989 allows social service workers to make an assessment of children based on future emotional abuse”, Rodrigues’ voice-over adds, stressing: “This means they can be permanently taken away from their homes without any evidence that they are in danger”.
Three years ago, national media highlighted the removal of an entire family of five children on the basis of one allegation of a slap to one of the children, which was later retracted several times (click here).
Those five children are still in care today.
Pedro Proença meantime has been slowly getting results. His platform’s legal efforts have already managed to recover two children from enforced care (click here) – but that leaves 18 further cases still pending.
How much Catarina Rodrigues’ film can help Portugal’s emigrés and their children in UK remains to be seen, but it is certainly adding to pressure on consular authorities to finally ‘do something’.
Proença posted online very recently that a visit by seven secretaries of state to the UK – ostensibly to give advice on matters like Brexit – served to bring desperate mothers into contact with powers set up to represent them.
The secretaries all agreed to see each mother separately, to hear their stories, and promised to do what they could to push their individual cases.
Proença posted afterwards: “It was a very important day”.
Meantime McKenzie Friend Sabine McNeill – arrested seven times since taking up this issue for multiple immigrant parents – says Rodrigues’ little film may just herald “the year of breakthroughs”.
To see Catarina Rodrigues’ “The Ones Who Fight”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOrKsawz7SU