Hague Talk – Patrick Noordoven – 19 September 2014

I will tell how I was deprived of the human right to identity and I will inform you about the consequences of this human rights violation.

I grew up not knowing I was deprived of the human right to identity, but in the process of my illegal “adoption” from Brazil, shortly after my birth, my identity was intentionally taken from me. I am not the only one. This happened to many babies from Brazil.

In 1981 the Dutch police started an international criminal investigation on illegal Inter Country Adoptions from Brazil. The investigations – officially known as the Brazil Baby Affair – disclosed illegal adoptions of Brazilian babies to several European countries and the US. In short, the Brazil Baby Affair has intentionally deprived these babies of their right to identity, in the same way, from the same country in the same period of time.

The outcome of the investigation in the Netherlands represents only one small part of the scandal; it is just a sample. It clearly demonstrates – at a minimum – that dozens of Brazilian babies were illegally adopted.

In most of the Dutch cases, the “adoptive” parents confessed to being guilty of acts which constitute the deprivation of the human right to identity. This happened because the “adoptive” parents registered the Brazilian babies as their biological child. Some of them got on an airplane to Brazil with a fake belly, pretending they were pregnant. Most of them stayed in Brazil for a very short period of time, feigning the final stage of a pregnancy, giving birth on a holiday in Brazil. By registering a Brazilian baby as their own, they erased any reference to the baby’s original identity.

Just knowing I had been adopted had the effect of cutting me off from a part of myself, from my origins. At first, I did not worry about the impact it would have on me because I always believed I could search for my roots in Brazil whenever I decided I was ready for that. It was not until I was ready to find my roots as a young adult that I started to discover I had been illegally adopted, something I was unaware of throughout most of my life.

When I turned 21 I was ready to find my roots. I commenced a life-changing journey in search of my identity. When I showed my adoptive parents the ticket I bought to go to Brazil, however, they told me could not search for my identity because there was no such information available.

I nonetheless returned to Brazil without any information about my identity. I was shocked to find out that my birth date is made up. My adoptive parents always kept this identity defining knowledge from me, until the moment I boarded the aircraft after they had told me that information about my original identity did not exist and that I would never accomplish anything with my search, because even my official birth date is false.

I started searching based on a false identity because my adoptive parents had registered me officially as their biological child, both in Brazil as well as in the Netherlands. Not as their adopted child. As a consequence, I did not know when or where I was born, let alone who was my mother. The only lead I had was the fact that I should have been born in São Paulo. As a result, I started the search for my identity in a city with more inhabitants than in the entire Netherlands, without any kind of information.

I am not a believer, but I was always strongly convinced of one particular circumstance that permanently kept me going. I was driven by the fact that, I had not dropped out of the sky! I was searching for a needle in a haystack, but I did not even know in which haystack I should be looking. My search was all about possible birth locations and uncertain data such as the possible date of my birth and my possible weight at birth. I kept returning to Brazil and I kept searching.

In 2010, I started to realize that those responsible for my illegal adoption provided me persistently with false data about what supposedly has happened. It took me more than ten years to piece together the truth and develop an account of what actually has happened. More than 10 years! When I finally reached the end of my search after having traced dozens of possible mothers, by confronting hundreds of women with the same names, I met with the daughter of the last remaining possible mother I was searching for. She was very hard to find, but when I found her, she told me that her mother passed away in 1985. She knew that she should have a younger brother, but no one knows what exactly happened to him.

A DNA test conclusively confirmed having the same mother. I found her, but years to late.

As a consequence, I still have yet to find my father. No one can tell me who he may be, as only my mother could have told me for certain. I am still searching for my father and his family. After tracing my deceased mother, I went through two years of mourning and reflection, during which I eventually started to comprehend the nature and implications of my illegal adoption. Last year, I was able to start a thorough reconstruction of my illegal adoption.

Since 2011, I have been able to reconstruct my true identity and what happened after my birth through personal investigations and inquiries, as well as extensive international research. I uncovered not only what happened in my case, but also of what essentially has happened more generally in other cases which are a part of the Brazil Baby Affair. Based on 15 years of experience, I decided that numerous other victims could use my support. For this purpose, I have founded the NGO Brazil Baby Affair, which was the name of the official police investigations on the illegal adoptions from Brazil.

Through the NGO, I will continue researching and start informing the world about the Brazil Baby Affair. Consequently, I am putting into use all the efforts I made in the ongoing search for my identity. Ultimately, I am putting my family tracing experience into practice to help others as a constructive way to move forward.