A call for more concerted action to prevent children in parental disputes being abducted overseas comes as yet more disturbing cases hit the headlines.
The stark reality is that around 1, 000 British children are taken abroad by the other parent without permission every year.
The appeal for a global campaign comes from the charity, Abducted Angels which raises funds for families to help them trace their children and bring them back.
The organisation also enlists the voluntary services of social workers and counsellors to help rehabilitate abducted children.
In many cases, children are whisked away to countries that are not a signatory of the Hague Convention on International child abduction – an international agreement made in 1980. These countries include Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Saudia Arabia and Zimbabwe.
Such cases can prove especially challenging because there are no international systems in place to help parents who are desperate to find and be reunited with their children.
The Foreign and Commonwealth (FCO) office will do its best to help but admits to having limited powers because it cannot interfere in the laws of a non-Hague country.
Below are some tips on how to stay vigilant and keep your children safe.
Tell-tale signs to look out for:
- Selling a house
- An interest in obtaining a copy of a child’s birth certificate
- Making moves to obtain a child’s passport
- Announcing a desire to go on holiday with the child/children and without the other parent
- Leaving a job
Preventative steps to consider:
- Apply to the Court for a Prohibited Steps Order (PSO); this prevents either parent from taking their children to any specific events or any trips without the express permission of the other parent
- Ensure that contact is supervised and, in extreme cases, you may wish to stop contact altogether
- Keep passports safe and consider depositing them with a solicitor
- Contact the Passport Agency and ask them to block the other parent from applying for a new passport
- Notify the school about who is allowed to collect your child from school
If you receive a threat of child abduction or if your child has been abducted:
- Contact the police immediately, who can issue a port alert to airports and ferry terminals. Recent photos of your child and the other parent, together with details of the airport or destination you think they may be heading, will help the police to focus their search
- Contact Reunite, a UK charity specialising in parental child abduction which operates a 24 hour emergency helpline
- Seek legal advice immediately
The severe psychological impact on children who have been abducted can be devastating and long-lasting and it is vital to obtain the permission of everyone with parental responsibility for a child before taking them abroad.
About Kate Banerjee
Kate, Head of the Children Department at Leeds and London based Jones Myers, is highly skilled in cases relating to children including contact and residence disputes.
She specialises in child protection law and is a Member of the Child Care Panel with experience representing parents, guardians, Local Authorities and children.
As well as working regionally and nationally, Kate has considerable expertise in international child abduction cases and is a Member of the International Child Abduction and Custody Unit.
Kate has “Higher Court Rights,” which enables her to offer clients an all-round litigation service.