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UK authorities remove “more than 30 Portuguese children” from immigrant parents

Following the developing story of a newborn snatched from his Portuguese mother by UK authorities, a television exposé has revealed that “the numbers of Portuguese children being taken from their parents in UK is increasing”.

Lawyers talking to RTP’s Sexta às 9 team have stressed that British social worker reports are often “exaggerated”, causing children to be removed from their families “for the most minimal suspicions”.

Cristiane Macedo, introduced in last night’s show as a lawyer working with the Portuguese Consulate in UK, said numbers are going up and authorities are currently dealing with “more than 30 Portuguese children” forcibly removed from their homes.

One of these – perhaps the latest – is two-month-old Santiago, the son of Portuguese cardiology technician Iolande Menino (click here).

Santiago’s case is clouded by the fact that his 39-year-old father Leonardo has been caught on camera selling a substance that Sexta às 9 describes as “illegal and lethal”.

A BBC documentary targeted Leonardo Edwards in 2015, presenting him as an “MMS pusher” and saying that the belief that MMS – which it denounced as nothing more than “industrial strength bleach” – was able to cure diseases was all over the Internet.

Many ‘alternative health practitioners’ are selling it. But Leonardo appears to be the only one who has had his firstborn child removed within days of the baby’s birth.

And the connection that Leonardo’s day job should somehow make him a threat to his child is what is understood to have caused a UK judge to ensure the couple lost custody of Santiago days after he was born in a birthing pool at the couple’s Southampton home.

As we wrote in our first story, Iolande and Leonardo have been deprived contact with their son almost since the day he was taken.

In an emotional moment on Sexta às 9, Iolande said she had a ‘feeling’ she was never going to see him again.

“I don’t know where he is. I don’t even know if he is alive”, she said.

To the Resident, she stressed the British authorities’ belief that Leonardo posed a danger to his son was “ridiculous”.

Leonardo’s notoriety over MMS was also spurious, she said, as there was nothing to suggest he would ever have administered the product to their child.

“Of course we weren’t thinking of treating Santiago with MMS! It’s crazy”, she told us.

But with the damage ‘done’ for all to see on Youtube in the form of the BBC documentary, the couple are in the unenviable dilemma of having to prove something that they say would never happen.

Their distrust of almost everyone with whom they have come into contact since Santiago was taken has meant that they have not even enlisted the support of a lawyer.

“I have been betrayed in court by lawyers before”, Iolande told us over Skype. “I am representing myself”.

Activists fighting the practice of what they call “forced adoptions” in UK – which they claim see as many as 4500 children removed from parents a year – have been in touch with the couple and say there is still time to help. But it is running out.

The date at which point UK authorities have said Santiago’s eventual adoption will be decided has been set for June 10, explained Sexta às 9 – not commenting on the irony that this is also Portugal, Camões and Portuguese Communities Day, a day that on national soil at least is meant to be a celebration.

“I hadn’t looked at it that way”, Iolande admitted. “I can’t believe it…”

One of the many disadvantages in the couple’s way is that Iolande, as a Portuguese national, is unused to British practices.

As she told the RTP team, in Portugal after you have a baby you go to the doctor. “Here, they come to you, and if you do not open your doors, you are confronting the system”.

Portuguese authorities are said to be ‘accompanying the case’, while Southampton County Council has refused to comment, saying there is a judicial embargo in place that forbids any kind of discussion.

Key players in the campaign to expose forced adoptions are ready, however, with practical help, expertise and lots of experience.

“They need to get a legal aid solicitor and then I have an excellent barrister lined up”, said one who is a leading light in numerous high profile cases. “But we need to get them to trust us to be able to help them.

“The way they are going, they are not going to get what they want”.

Elsewhere, the other 30 or so families caught up in similar battles are finding nothing is easy or straightforward.

The mother of five Portuguese children removed over two years ago was recently in court, trying to get them back, when she was allegedly told she could either give up the baby she was carrying for adoption, or she would have to leave two of her children within the system to be legally adopted.

We have been told that the ruling loaded more agony onto an already overloaded situation that now sees the woman’s eldest children in conflict with her, as she is understood to have chosen to keep the baby she was carrying.

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