By Eric San Juan
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Nov 17 (efe-epa).- After months of waiting due the Covid-19 pandemic and the closure of Vietnam’s borders, 36 families from Europe – including 17 from Spain – on Tuesday received the required documents in Ho Chi Minh City to bring their recently adopted children back home.
Smiling 10-year-old Tien clung to the neck of Antonia Lopez, his new mother, after a bureaucratic process that took over three years and was further hampered in March when Vietnam closed its borders. The child was finally granted a visa to travel to Spain on Tuesday.
“When we were about to come here, the pandemic broke out and everything got more complicated. But I am delighted with Tien, he has made it very easy for me from Day 1. We have adapted very well, I would have liked to have him three years ago, when he was younger, and enjoyed more of his childhood, but it is a delight (nonetheless),” said Antonia, who has now spent seven days together with her son in Vietnam and was set to return to Barcelona on Wednesday.
The happy reunion was made possible due to an unprecedented diplomatic operation after the coronavirus broke out, which has allowed 36 European families to obtain a permit signed by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to enter the country on humanitarian grounds despite the border closures.
Vietnam, with just 1,283 cases and 35 deaths registered so far, has been among the best performers in terms of managing the health crisis, but this has also meant a strict border shutdown that paralyzed all international adoptions.
“This operation has been a public-private exercise and teamwork with collaboration from everyone and keeping in mind the child’s interests as priority, we have been able to make the dreams of the children and these parents a reality,” Spanish Ambassador to Vietnam, Pilar Mendez, told Efe.
Spain, the country with the most applicants, headed the operation in coordination with embassies of the other six European nations involved – Italy, France, Sweden, Germany and Luxembourg – along with Vietnamese authorities and 16 European adoption agencies.
The Spanish embassy said in a statement to Efe that the Spanish families had been the first to benefit from the initiative and the first to meet their children in Vietnam, calling it an “unprecedented event at the global level.”
In a ceremony to hand over the visas, organized by the Spanish embassy at a hotel in Ho Chi Minh City, some children could be seen playing with their new adoptive parents and even trying to speak words in Spanish, having spent a week together while the diplomatic mission worked to resolve the bureaucratic hurdles.
Others, especially older children who can be up to 10 years old, had to take help of interpreters and looked understandably uncomfortable and confused.
Truoc, aged four and a half, struggled out of the arms of her adoptive parents Alvaro and Monica and refused to pose for a photo.
“Truoc is very conscious of the situation, she gets frustrated because you don’t understand her and she doesn’t understand you,” said Alvaro, adding that the girl was also sad about leaving her friends behind at the orphanage and going away with people who are virtually strangers.
However, the couple recalled some nice moments during the time spent with Truoc over the past week, and said adoption was a slow process where children came with “baggage” and needed help and company.
“After being rejected in other countries, two years ago we began the process to adopt a Vietnamese child. In January they told us that a girl had been assigned to us and we could come to meet her in March or April. But the world stopped due to Covid and we did not know when it would open again,” Alvaro said.
After the success of this operation, the Spanish embassy is discussing a second phase in which Vietnam could open the door for more European families within the next few months.
The Spanish diplomats have received meeting requests from missions of other countries – such as Canada and the United States – that want to know about their experience.
“Between Vietnam and Spain and Vietnam and the European Union, it has been possible to create a model that we expect to be sustainable over time despite the global pandemic,” the Spanish embassy said. EFE-EPA