German Embassy in Delhi receives memorandum for Ariha Shah’s repatriation

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The Embassy of Germany in New Delhi has received a memorandum from a women’s rights organisation, for the repatriation of Ariha Shah, a young Indian girl under foster care in Germany since September 2021, following allegations of abuse against her parents.

Despite the charges being dropped due to lack of evidence, Ariha remains in the custody of Jugendamt, the German youth services, as the Berlin court rejected the parents’ pleas for custody, citing two injuries Ariha had suffered in 2021.

Earlier, a German court had dismissed the claim by Bhavesh and Dhara Shah – Ariha’s parents, to custody and granted the baby’s custody to the German state.

The case has sparked outrage, bringing together MPs to raise their voices for Dhara Shah’s cause.

“The child remains in foster care with only twice monthly one-hour visitation with her parents, despite the police case against Ariha’s parents having been closed without charges in February 2022 and the court-appointed psychologist in civil custody proceedings having recommended placement of Ariha with her parents in a parent-and-child institution in December 2022,” the memorandum to the Embassy of Germany read.

“Though the child is entitled to consular access as an Indian citizen, this has been granted to her only twice in the last two and a half years.”

“Despite the German Foreign Minister and you having repeatedly given public assurances that the child’s language, religion and culture will be preserved, no steps have been taken in this regard. Ariha is a Jain Gujarati child. Yet, she is not being given Gujarati language lessons nor is she allowed to participate in Jain or Gujarati festivals. She is not even allowed access to the Indian community in Germany. She has been repeatedly denied permission to celebrate Diwali, Indian Independence Day, Indian Republic Day, Mahavir Jayanti and Paryushan with either the Indian community or at the Indian embassy in Berlin,” it read.

“She is growing up isolated from her community with paid foster carers having no ethnic or cultural connection to her.”

“Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), to which both India and Germany are party, a child who is removed from her parents by state authorities for any reason is entitled to the preservation of her identity, religion, language and nationality. We urge Germany to abide by its international obligations in regard to Ariha.”

“While we cannot question the German court’s decision to terminate parental custody, Ariha has done no wrong and deserves to be treated according to her best interests. Apart from her parents, with whom she is not allowed to stay, Ariha has no one to call her own in Germany. The Child Welfare Committee of Ahmedabad, where Ariha’s maternal grandparents, aunt, and uncle reside, has identified a foster family of the same ethnic and religious background for the baby,” it read.

“There would appear to be no reason for Ariha to be unilaterally forced to remain in Germany when the Indian authorities are ready to ensure her safety in India.,” the memorandum stated.

THE CASE

The ongoing tug-of-war over baby Ariha’s custody began after she allegedly suffered an accidental injury, as claimed by her parents.

The German government, however, dismissed these claims, leading to a lengthy legal battle to regain custody.

Earlier, India had urged Germany to repatriate the child, calling it an infringement on “her social, cultural and linguistic rights.”

Ariha Shah was taken from her Indian parents by German authorities in September 2021, when she was seven months old. Her father was working in Germany at the time, but the parents have since returned to India.

Published By:

Vani Mehrotra

Published On:

Feb 10, 2024

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