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At least 15 Russian children have not returned home after exchange programmes in US

October 02, 2014, 7:19 UTC+3 MOSCOW

“A child came to spend a summer in an American family and stayed there, with no documents and no official status", - Russian children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said

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© Nikolai Galkin/TASS

MOSCOW, October 2. /TASS/. At least 15 Russian children who arrived in the United States under various exchange programme have not come back home to Russia, Russian children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said in an interview with the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily published in its Thursday issue.

“For a number of years, we have been finding our children in the United States who were brought there under cultural, rehabilitation or tourist programmes and who stayed with American families,” he said. “A child came to spend a summer in an American family and stayed there, with no documents and no official status. Today, there are at least 15 such children. We are working on these cases.”

On Wednesday, Astakhov said that Russia had pulled out from the American sponsored student exchange programme for high school children, Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX), due to US failure to comply with obligations concerning children’s return back to their country after the programme. “I confirm information about Russia’s withdrawal from the Students Exchange Program with the United States,” Astakhov wrote on his Twitter account. “One of the reasons is the US gross breach of obligations concerning an unconditional return of Russian students from their academic year [in the United States].”

According to the children’s rights ombudsman, one of the Russian exchange students did not return home after unnamed US citizens registered guardianship rights for the teenager and kept him in the country. The teenage boy, according to the Russian children’s rights ombudsman, was put under care of a homosexual family, despite the fact that he had a mother in Russia. This was the major reason for Russia’s withdrawal from the FLEX.

Back in 2011, Russia suspended the activity of an organization that organized children’s summer vacations in the United States to later offer these children for adoption.

“This is a gross violation, when a child goes to a foreign country for vacations or study but is actually adopted there. Guardianship under the U.S. laws is practically the same as adoption under Russia’s,” he said.

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