Around 20 people gathered outside Norwegian embassy in London on May 30 to protest again the alleged kidnapping of immigrant children by Norwegian child social service ‘Barnevernet’. Protests were held simultaneously across a number of European cities, attracting thousands of supporters.
The majority of those protesting in London were Lithuanian; whilst most expressed solidarity, some were also the victims of losing their children in Norway. “We couldn’t appeal the case; our [Lithuanian] foreign minister and the ambassadors refused to intervene,” said a woman, whose grandchild was taken into care.
The reasons for which the children are placed into care are often the results of cultural misinterpretation and often, borderline absurd. Back in 2012, two Indian children were placed into care after being hand-fed by their Indian parents.
The issue has been attracting worldwide attention, with many high-profile cases involving European, Asian and also Norwegian families. Many see Barnevernet’s draconian child social services as being part of a wider profit circle – currently, the budget of Barnevernet is estimated to be over 1bn euros.
One of the event’s organisers, Renata, said that “there is huge support from the Lithuanian community and we can’t show fear.” As to why the Lithuanian politicians are failing to act, she says: “The politicians themselves know what is needed to be done; they’re doing nothing out of fear.”
The protest attracted limited support from the Lithuanian media, mirroring the lack of initiative from the politicians.
LRT, Lithuania’s national radio and television equivalent of the BBC, finished their 100 word report by quoting Norwegian ambassador Dagan M. Halvorsen: “Proportionally, not that many children have been taken into care.”
“Not so many” comprise of 126 cases, making up of 2.8% of total children of Lithuanian immigrant families living in Norway, according to Dalia, one of event’s organizers.
In contrast, Norway sees the protest as an exaggerated disinformation campaign, and has recently hired a PR firm to counter the negative perception of Barnevernet’s practices in Lithuania.
In London, the Norwegian embassy was the only diplomatic building in Belgrave Square not displaying the national flag on the day – surrounding embassies were seen displaying their colours as usual.
A Norwegian man and a woman entering the embassy, presumably diplomatic workers, voiced their complaints at the protesters gathered outside – “you put rubbish in front of our door.”
More protest are scheduled in the near future.