Of the four Croatian couples arrested in Zambia earlier in December on suspicion of human trafficking, two are entered in the register of prospective adoptive parents, which means that they are fit for adopting children, the Ministry of Family Affairs and Social Policy said on Thursday in response to a query from the Croatian state news agency Hina.
One couple was entered in the register in 2021 and the other in 2022.
The ministry says it has not received applications from prospective adoptive parents from Croatia for the adoption of children from the Democratic republic of the Congo in accordance with the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.
Following a process at a social welfare centre to establish fitness for adopting a child, persons with permanent or temporary residence in Croatia seeking to adopt a child from another country party to the Convention are required to file an application with the ministry indicating the country from which they want to adopt a child.
The ministry then informs the applicants about the possibility of adopting a child from the country in question and about the necessary documentation.
Eight Croatian nationals were arrested in Zambia three weeks ago after arriving to collect adopted children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are suspected of human trafficking, but have not been formally charged yet, Jutarnji List daily reported on Thursday.
An investigation is still ongoing to check the veracity of foreign-issued documents used in the adoption of four children aged from one year and three months to three years.
A Croatian Embassy official from Pretoria has visited the Croatian nationals three times and provided them with food, medicines and other necessities, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs confirmed. The Embassy official met with relevant officials of Zambia and the EU Delegation in Lusaka.
Jutarnji List earlier reported that Zambian police had been informed that three white people had booked rooms at a bed and breakfast in Ndola on 6 December, after which immigration and police officers followed the suspects, who had children of Congolese origin with them. The suspects were arrested at the international airport the next day, and the preliminary results of the investigation have shown that the adoption documents issued by the Congo are not authentic.
The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs said that the Embassy in Pretoria had responded promptly and requested from Zambia official confirmation of the arrests and information on the steps being taken by Zambian authorities.
The Croatian Embassy received oral confirmation of the arrests of the Croatian nationals on 13 December, Jutarnji List said.