Almost two children a day are abducted by the parents into foreign countries, new government figures reveal.
The rate has more than doubled over the last decade. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) dealt with 580 cases of parental child abduction in 2012-13, more than twice the 2003-4 figure of 272.
The charity Relate, meanwhile, reports 447 cases over the previous year, involving 616 children, with noticeable jumps over Christmas, and in September folllowing the end of the school holidays.
The figures were released to mark the start of an awareness campaign. A new FCO video, Caught in the Middle, highlights the plight of children caught up in parental abduction, and is designed to “encourage parents to think of the consequences before doing something that could do lasting damage to the children and families involved.”
Mark Simmonds MP is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. He said:
“I was very concerned to see an increase in child abduction cases. Parental child abduction has a devastating emotional impact on the child as well as the taking parent and the parent left behind. It can do lasting damage to a child’s relationship with both parents and their happiness. These are often distressing cases for everyone involved and there are no easy fixes, but our staff around the world work hard to assist those parents left behind.”
“We are launching this awareness campaign in the lead up to Christmas to try to prevent parents from doing something that would cause significant distress to themselves, their family and most importantly to the child. We also encourage parents to look for warning signs that their partner may be considering this. Once children are taken overseas it can be extremely difficult to secure their return to the UK. Many parents are not aware that by abducting their child, they may be committing a crime.”
Alison Shalaby, Chief Executive of Reunite, added:
“Parental child abduction is not faith or country specific – we see cases involving a range of countries from France and Poland to Thailand, Pakistan and Australia. The holidays can be a particularly stressful time for families, especially if the relationship between parents has broken down. However, there is help available if you think that your partner may be considering abducting your children.”
Pakistan was the most popular destination for abducting parents over the year, with 35 cases reported. The US, Poland and Ireland come next on the list, with 32, 29 and 28 cases respectively. However, Pakistan is not a participant in the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, an international treaty which allows the speedy return of children abducted by parents from one participating country into another.