International adoptions should be encouraged in order to give a family life to children who are abandoned or at risk of becoming institutionalised in orphanages, the European Parliament said this week.
In a resolution agreed by a majority of MEPs in Strasbourg, members urged all EU institutions to play a more active role in facilitating inter-country adoptions and cutting red tape, while safeguarding children's rights.
The agreement stated that while adoption should preferably take place in a child's country of origin, an adoptive family should be found in another member state if this is not possible. MEPs also said placing a child in institutional care should be "the very last option" and only a temporary measure.
The debate focused on EU countries including Romania, Bulgaria and Italy where the problem of abandoned children has become increasingly serious in recent years.
Irish MEP Sean Kelly asked Romania specifically to lift its 2001 embargo on international adoptions, in a bid to prevent abandoned children from being exploited or trafficked for sex. He warned of "international racketeers" who pick up abandoned children and sell them on around the world into a life of slavery and "deplorable exploitation".
"We have an obligation to ensure that this does not happen to any child, which is why we need to open up the situation for good parents who want to adopt children, be they from Ireland, Romania or anywhere," said Mr Kelly.