As the euro zone debt crisis deepens and austerity measures take their toll across Europe, the number of young children and babies abandoned across the region has increased, according to local charities.
The rise in the abandonment of infants across Europe is most visible in the spread of “baby hatches” or “boxes” across Europe, where unwanted infants are left anonymously.
The phenomenon was previously more prevalent among immigrants, but it is becoming more widespread among financially desperate members of the local population.
The hatches are sensor-activated so when a baby is placed, an alarm is activated and a carer comes to collect the child. Despite the practice being widely viewed as contravening the 1953 European Convention on Human Rights, of the 27 EU member countries, 11 countries still have “baby hatches” in operation, including Germany, Italy and Portugal.
In those countries where hatches are illegal, the number of infants abandoned in hospitals, clinics and churches has also risen, raising concerns among European charities, the UN and the European Commission that austerity measures and increasing social deprivation are the catalyst for the rise in child abandonment.
According to SOS Villages, a European charity that attempts to help families in financial hardship before abandonment occurs, in the last year alone 1,200 children in Greece and 750 in Italy have been abandoned. That is almost double the 400 children abandoned in Italy a year ago, and up from 114 children abandoned in Greece in 2003.
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