AROUND 270 families who feared their children would be seized by social services in Britain have sought refuge in Ireland since 2013, an Irish organisation claims.
The Ectopia Network, which is based in Co. Wexford, says Ireland is becoming a refuge for families who have been falsely accused of neglect or abuse by the British authorities.
The network’s co-ordinator, Brian Rotherby, 81, told The Irish Post that they offer vulnerable people a safe house from “draconian, outrageous and facist” social services.
They also help parents, whose children are at risk of being adopted against their will in Britain, to process legal challenges through the High Court in Ireland.
Located near Rosslare Harbour in Co. Wexford, the Ectopia Network safe house, which is run by volunteers, provides a sanctuary for those who can afford make the trip across the Irish Sea.
Of the hundreds who have contacted them since 2013 they claim a total of 57 families have actually arrived on Irish shores.
“Many of them do not have passports so Ireland is a good option for travelling over, and the culture is similar to Britain, so they feel comfortable coming here,” Mr Rotherby said.
“We get many calls from people but 57 families have come over to Ireland seeking help.”
One individual who is currently staying at the safe house is a 25-year-old pregnant woman from Northumberland.
She fled to Ireland after her first child, who is now two-and-a-half years old, was taken from her at four months and placed into foster care.
Adopted herself at a young age, the woman was told by social workers that her unborn child would also be taken from her at birth.
“I lost contact with my daughter two days before Christmas, it was incredibly upsetting,” she told The Irish Post.
“I was accused of neglect, drinking, drugs, leading a chaotic lifestyle, and of putting myself first as a result of the state of my mental health. I’ve never touched any of those things.
“I’m petrified, I don’t know anyone here. My parents support me but they’re miles away.”
But Sir Martin Narey, a British Government advisor on children, disagreed with Mr Rotherby’s claims, and said “forced adoption is a dramatic phrase”.
He says there are currently 68,000 children in care in Britain and only 5,000 of cases result in adoption.
It is estimated that around 2,000 of those adopted were removed from their families under a court order, therefore without parental consent.
“As far as I’m aware only a handful of families at most would gave headed to Ireland,” he said.
“It’s a myth that this issue only happens in the UK, this is an issue that takes place in many European countries.”
When asked whether this was a prevalent matter facing the British authorities, a spokesman for the Department of Education stated that this was a matter for the courts.
“First and foremost, the interests of the child are taken into consideration. That’s what’s at the heart of all decisions,” a spokesman told The Irish Post.
“In situations where a child is identified as suffering, or at risk of suffering, significant harm, the local authority has a statutory duty to intervene.”
Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales, reinforced this adding that adoption is “only justified by the overriding necessity of the interests of the child.”
But Wexford-based Mr Rotherby claims that the current situation is a “refugee problem” that the British Government and authorities need to address.
“We’re just picking up the pieces from the problems created by the authorities,” he said. “We’re not encouraging people to come here, we’re just helping.”