BBC Today Programme on stranded surrogacy babies

Natalie Gamble was interviewed on this morning’s BBC Radio 4 Today Programme (here at 7.14am) about the problems faced by surrogacy families in the current coronavirus crisis.

Emergency travel documents for stranded surrogacy babies

Our team is currently working with 14 British families with babies born or imminently due through international surrogacy in the USA, Canada, Ukraine, Georgia, seeking emergency travel documents to help them bring their children home to the UK.

With the Foreign Office advising all UK citizens to return home immediately, the US passport office closed and worry about families getting ill with coronavirus in countries where they have no access to healthcare, these cases are urgent and our whole team has been working long hours this week to bring these babies home. 

As Natalie explained to the BBC, the difficulties are more acute for surrogacy babies than other children because of UK surrogacy law and the complexities it creates around British nationality.

UK law treats the surrogate (and if she is married her spouse) as the legal parents of a child born through surrogacy, even if in the country of birth the British intended/biological parents are on the birth certificate. That means that, before emergency travel documents can be issued, the Home Office and Passport Office either have to confirm to the Foreign Office that the child is British or they have to grant British nationality.

The process involves multiple government agencies and every case is decided on its own facts.

The Home Office has been amazing this week and in several cases has granted British nationality applications (which normally take 6 months) in just a day or two.

We have secured emergency passports for four British families who are heading home this weekend. With more to go, we need the government agencies to work together effectively and implement a clear coordinated process which parents can follow (including those without lawyers behind them).

What about surrogacy babies not yet born?

We are also very worried about families who are expecting babies overseas in the next few months who are not yet in the country of birth. We are currently working with 16 British families in this situation, with babies due in the USA, Canada, Ukraine and Georgia, and we are keeping the Home Office updated about all the pending cases we are aware of.

Parents are desperately worried about travel restrictions preventing them getting to their newborn children, for whom they will be legally responsible immediately from birth. What will happen to these babies if they are born without parents there to care for them?

The UK government needs to start liaising with the governments of the US, Canada, Ukraine and Georgia to get dispensations from travel restrictions in place so that surrogacy parents can enter their countries in order to care for their newborn children and bring them home, or if this is not possible to help ensure safe alternative care arrangements are in place for these babies.

Find out more about how we help with international surrogacy and more about our campaigning and policy work. Our sister organisation Brilliant Beginnings is also supporting families with the practicalities of surrogacy overseas in the US and Canada.

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