Parental child abduction rises by 88% in a decade
The number of British children taken abroad permanently by one of their parents has risen by 88% since 2003, new figures published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) show.
In 2011-12, 512 cases spread across 84 countries have been reported in Britain, compared to 272 cases over 51 countries in 2003-4.
Many of the cases have been high profile, such as that of 13-year-old Adam Jones, whose mother Rebecca has been campaigning to have him brought back from Qatar, where he has been living with his late father’s family since 2009.
It is illegal for one parent to take their children to live abroad without express permission from the other, assuming that both have parental responsibility, although more research by the FCO has suggested that 24% of Britons are unaware of the illegality of doing so.
Research also showed that over half of people in the UK believe that parents have international legal rights pertaining to having their children brought back to them, whereas in actual fact the FCO has said that it is often powerless to help parents whose children have been abducted.
In the newly-released report, the FCO explains: “The reality is that whilst help is available, parental child abduction cases can take years to resolve. This has a significant impact on those concerned and there is the strong possibility that the child may never be returned…It is also much harder to return a child from a country that has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention.”
Many are also hoping that these statistics will help to combat some of the stereotypes surrounding parental abduction.
Alison Shalaby, chief executive of charity Reunite – the leading charity in international parental abduction cases – said: “There is a misconception that the government can do something about it. But they have no power to dictate to a foreign country, to tell them to adopt the Hague Convention.”
Ms Shalaby, whose own daughter was taken to Egypt by her father, added: “This issue is not going away and…we are urging parents to think twice before they abduct their child or seek help if they think their child is at risk.”