ELEVENTH-hour talks will take place this week between Irish and Vietnamese officials in Hanoi on the future of inter-country adoptions that will affect more than 200 unfinished applications.

An Irish delegation will depart for Vietnam tomorrow in a bid to broker a new deal between the two countries.

The previous agreement has expired but last month a draft on new proposals was forwarded to Vietnamese authorities through the Department of Foreign Affairs and a delegation will now travel to the country in an attempt to finalise a new deal.

Ireland has had a successful adoption relationship with the southeast Asian country which has been the third most popular destination for would-be parents after Russia and Romania. The latter country is now closed for Irish adoptions.

Between 1991 and 2008, a total of 634 Vietnamese children have been entered into the register of foreign adoptions, making up 16% of the 3,964 foreign children adopted during this time.

But for the majority of those behind the 260 current
applications for Vietnamese children, the outcome of this week's meeting will be crucial. A small number, who are at an advanced stage, will have their applications processed regardless of what happens this week.

Between 2003 and 2008, there was an average of 87 adoptions a year from the country. However, a former bilateral agreement between the two countries is not being extended, with the Irish authorities seeking a new framework.

"Ireland offered to provide the Vietnamese authorities with the text of a draft agreement as a basis for negotiations," a spokeswoman for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Barry Andrews, said last week.

"A draft bilateral agreement for inter-country adoption was delivered on 6 March... to the Vietnamese authorities for their consideration. The Irish delegation will travel to Hanoi for an intensive round of discussions on this draft bilateral agreement."

Most Irish applicants will spend up to four years in the process of securing a successful adoption.