Police this week conducted a raid on a Catholic Church-run orphanage in Colombo archdiocese on suspicion that the facility was engaged in child trafficking, according to an official with the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA).
Anoma Dissanayake, chairperson of the NCPA, accompanied police on November 23 to the Prem Niwasa orphanage run by the Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity in Moratuwa after receiving an anonymous tip via an emergency hotline.
“Investigations are [being conducted] on [alleged] illegal activities at this … orphanage,” said Dissanayake.
“A few foreigners were present at the time of inspection. Police are conducting an investigation to ascertain whether they were present to take away children housed at the orphanage.”
Police took statements from several officials and pregnant mothers at the home, where 75 children, 20 pregnant women and 12 new mothers were in residence at the time of the raid.
Sister Mary Elisha, head of the Prem Niwasa orphanage, denied any wrongdoing at the facility and added that she was concerned about bad publicity in the local media by the spreading of false information about the Church-run orphanage.
“NCPA officials, police officers and media groups rushed to our facility, investigated and cross-examined unwed mothers,” she said.
“[They] took many documents belonging to our home, including registration books and files, for further investigation. Although authorities did not remove even one child from the orphanage, some media groups published that NCPA had taken our children into custody.”
She added: “We have never been involved with child trafficking. It is against our faith. It is our mission to care for children and unwed mothers.”
A 14-year-old unwed mother who gave birth to a child on November 2, said without the assistance of the nuns at the orphanage, she would have had nowhere to turn.
“My cousin raped me and I became pregnant. I will continue my studies and want to be a doctor to serve the people,” she said.
Police have increased security at the orphanage, which is officially registered with the government, and are keeping records of all who visit the facilities.