India on Friday urged Germany to return an Indian child, age 2, who has been in its foster care system for more than 20 months, claiming that doing so violated “her social, cultural, and linguistic rights.” At the age of seven months, Ariha Shah was taken from her Indian parents by German authorities in Berlin in September 2021. The parents later moved back to India, but at the time her father was working in Germany.
According to Indian media sources, Shah’s parents claimed that when her grandmother visited from India, she accidentally hurt the child. When Shah was taken to the hospital, the authorities placed her in the care of Germany’s Youth Welfare Office. Since then, the subject of her custody has been raised diplomatically. New Delhi brought it up with the German foreign minister during a trip to India in December.
The spokesperson for the Indian foreign ministry, Arindam Bagchi, told reporters on Friday, “We urge German authorities to take all necessary steps to send Ariha to India as soon as possible, which is also her inalienable right as an Indian national. Ariha’s continued placement in German foster care and infringement of her social, cultural and linguistic rights is of deep concern to the government of India and the parents,” he said.
“The government of India and the parents are deeply concerned about Ariha’s continued placement in German foster care and the violation of her social, cultural, and linguistic rights,” he said. According to Bagchi, the child’s socio-cultural rights may be fully protected while she is in her home country, where her best interests can be fully attained.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stated that the girl was well and that her “well-being is the first priority” during a trip to India in December. The youth offices in Germany, according to her, “bear in mind the cultural identity of each child.”