Dozens of surrogate babies stranded in Ukraine amid lockdown

Travel restrictions prevent foreign parents from collecting babies, with fears quarantine extension could worsen issue.

    A nurse and newborns are seen in the Hotel Venice owned by BioTexCom clinic in Kyiv, Ukraine May 14, 2020 [Gleb Garanich/Reuters]
    A nurse and newborns are seen in the Hotel Venice owned by BioTexCom clinic in Kyiv, Ukraine May 14, 2020 [Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

    Infants in Ukraine born to surrogate mothers for foreigners are stranded because the country's borders are closed under coronavirus restrictions, preventing parents from the United States, Europe and elsewhere from travelling to collect them.

    Ukraine's human rights ombudswoman has appealed to authorities to find a solution.

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    "About 100 children are already waiting for their parents in different centres of reproductive medicine. And if quarantine is extended, then it will not be about hundreds, but about thousands," said Lyudmila Denisova.

    Ukraine has a thriving surrogate industry and is one of the few countries that legally allows the service for foreigners.

    Concern is high that a long border closure will place a burden on clinics and distress the parents.

    The issue attracted wide attention after BioTexCom, the country's largest surrogate operation, posted a video showing dozens of babies in bassinets arrayed in tight rows in two large rooms of its Hotel Venice where the clinic puts up clients.

    At BioTexCom, a surrogate mother receives between $15,000 and $17,000 for giving birth to a baby.

    Rafa Aires from Spain managed to get in before the lockdown. He was united with his daughter Marta but cannot leave as Kyiv has suspended almost all flights and he needs to finish the paperwork.

    It means a stressful wait for his wife, Maria, who was unable to travel with him due to work.

    "Every day I make video calls with my wife for one hour or an hour and a half for her to see the baby," he said. "It is very difficult."

    "Nurses and medical personnel in this hotel are wonderful. They make my life easier," he said.

    BioTexCom's video, which aimed to reassure absent parent that their little ones were receiving good care, showed nurses bathing and caressing them and spurred the government into action.

    "The issue remains unresolved, but we are developing a mechanism to get out of the situation," said Denisova, who met with foreign ministry representatives on Thursday.

    Under the proposed mechanism, foreign parents would have to write a statement addressed to Denisova's office, which would then contact the ministry with a request to give permission to enter Ukraine.

    About 50 clinics that offer surrogate births operate in Ukraine. The country's economic struggles drive many Ukrainian women to become surrogate mothers.

    The government says it can only permit parents to enter Ukraine if it receives a request from the relevant embassy.

    Ukraine's restrictions are to remain in place until at least May 22.

    SOURCE: News agencies