Norwegian authorities and the Norwegian Child Welfare Services (Barnevernet) have again embarked on the proceedings to decide by default upon depriving the mother of legal guardianship of her 10-month old daughter. The mother is Silje Garmo who, with the assistance of Ordo Iuris, has filed an asylum claim in Poland. As Ordo Iuris jurists highlight such measures are incompatible with the provisions of the Hague Convention.
Pursuant to Article 5, paragraph 1 of the 1996 Hague Convention, Polish administrative and judicial authorities have exclusive jurisdiction in the case concerning Silje Garmo’s custody of her daughter. In line with the principle enshrined in the Convention, jurisdiction is vested in the State of the child’s habitual residence. Silje Garmo came to Poland already in May 2017, and has filed to the Polish authorities the asylum claim for both her daughter and herself. In its Practical Handbook to the Convention the Hague Conference clearly indicates that the State where the asylum claim has been lodged has the power to decide about the child’s future and his/her protection.
Moreover, measures taken by Norwegian authorities stand in opposition to the case law of the Norwegian Supreme Court, referred to by the Norwegian party in its reports to the Hague Conference. In its ruling of 3 November 2016 (2016/1016), the Norwegian Supreme Court found that the child’s degree of attachment to a country should be the prevailing criterion in establishing his/her place of habitual residence. Barnevernet is persistent in its attempts at deciding about the future of Silje Garmo’s daughter even if the child has spent seven out of ten months of her life in Poland, and her mother has chosen to pursue her existence in Poland too.
More than 12 thousand Poles have expressed their support for Silje Garmo’s claim for asylum by signing an appeal issued by the Confederation of Women of the Republic of Poland. The Confederation’s President, Małgorzata Owczarska, has announced that in the incoming days all collected signatures will be submitted to the Office for Foreigners, the Ministry of Interior and Administration and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Even despite a written notification sent to assert that Silje Garmo has a habitual residence in Poland and has filed there an asylum claim for herself and for her daughter the Norwegian Child Welfare Services (Barnevernet), already for the second time, has undertook to run in Norway the default proceedings in order to deprive the mother of legal guardianship of her daughter. The hearing in the case before the Oslo District Court has been scheduled for 21 November.
Violations of the Hague Convention pose a great threat to the guarantees of the rights of the child and the family. In particular, the rights of numerous Polish families are at stake as their family life has been being damaged by the Norwegian Barnevernet. Recently, we have been informed about unlawful actions by Norwegian bodies which ended in placing a Polish child in a Norwegian foster family. The measure was taken against the request for the child to be returned to the Polish family, submitted under the Convention by the Polish Ministry of Justice. Silje Garmo’s case shows that Barnevernet can also be unsparing towards Norwegians – says att. Filip Wołoszczak from Ordo Iuris.
Ordo Iuris believes that new cases of Norway’s infringement of international commitments under the Hague Convention are part of other breaches of the right to respect for family life. At present, eight cases regarding this issue have been pending against Norway before the European Court of Human Rights.
The evidence gathered through the examination of case files concerning Polish families in Norway reveals that Polish children who have been taken from their parents in Norway are not only returned to Poland but also placed in Norwegian families where their rights to maintain their national identity and to be raised in Polish language and culture are in peril. In this context, the Republic of Poland should provide protection to Norwegian citizens persecuted by Barnevernet at least until the practice of Norwegian services adopted in cases concerning Poles will have been aligned with the requirements of international law.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has received 16 complaints against the Norwegian government from parents. They raise the violation of the parents' right to respect for family life. All of them pertain to the actions of the same institution – Norway's child protection agency, Barnevernet.
Norway is notorious for human rights infringements, in particular when it comes to family and children's rights. This has been proved by the case of Silje Garmo, a Norwegian woman who was granted asylum in Poland after she escaped unjustified intrusion into her family life by the Child Welfare Services – Barnevernet.
The District Court in Myślibórz ruled that the children of a Norwegian national who fled to Poland fearing an intervention by the local authorities should be allowed to be reunited with their mother.
The decision by the Norwegian authorities to expel the Consul of the Republic of Poland, Dr. Sławomir Kowalski, has provoked a widespread criticism. First of all, it met with a disapproval by the local Polish community. Its representatives organised a demonstration in front of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway in defence of the Polish consul.