A campaign has been launched by the Turkish Government to retrieve Turkish children fostered by Christian families in Europe – starting with children fostered by gay and lesbian couples.

According to the Hurriyet Daily, the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag has instructed Turkish international representatives to start the process in the cases of three children fostered by gay couples in Belgium.

The children had been taken from their families by child welfare officers because of abuse claims, or because the families could not financially support their children.

An investigation was launched last month after the Turkish Government estimated that 5,000 such children had been given to Christian foster parents in Europe, rather than being matched to foster parents who share their faith and heritage.

The Turkish Parliamentary Human Rights Commission (TPHRC), which lead the investigation, reported that three of the children had been given to gay and lesbian couples in Belgium.

One child, Yunus, was taken from his family at 6-months-old after allegedly being dropped on the floor by his parents. He is now 9-years-old and lives with a lesbian couple in Belgium. His family had previously applied for his return, but had been rejected by courts.

Turkish authorities have begun legal proceeding to have Yunus and other Turkish children given to gay foster parents returned, citing a violation of human rights and psychological damage done to the child.

Speaking about Yunus’ case Ayhan Sefer Ustun, head of the TPHRC, said: “We don’t condemn that culture, but the child has been given to a foreign culture, to a lesbian family. Even if a child is taken from the [biological] family for the right reasons, he or she should be placed with a family closer to his or her culture.”

He said he was concerned that the children would have their Turkish cultural background and Islamic religion “assimilated” by living with Christian European families.

“The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in a past ruling said that taking a Christian child from his family and giving him to a family of Jehovah’s witnesses was not an appropriate act,” he said. “This is a situation against human rights. It is an assimilation to take a child who has grown up with an Islamic culture to be given to a Christian family without a judicial decision.”

“We have highly successful Turks in Europe. Turkish children could be given to such Turks,” he added.