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Almost two children a day abducted by parents

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.”

He continued:

“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.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Andrew says:

    Probably the reported tip of the unreported iceberg. The proportion of mothers is 70% and I suspect it would be much higher if the unreported cases were added in – those where the man accepts the result – perhaps as the cost of not paying maintenance, perhaps because he does not think that there is anything he can do about it.

  2. JamesB says:

    I like the picture.

  3. JamesB says:

    Photo of the sea, makes me feel like going for a swim.

  4. Paul says:

    Internal relocation is just as bad and just as unreported. Moreover, a father can also lose his children to a no direct contact order, to parental alienation or perhaps worst of all, to those scandalous Payne principles which allow a mother to lawfully abscond abroad. None of this is monitored or reported. The government does not concern itself with these cases of abduction which are equally harmful to children for the simple reason that they know the courts have assisted these abductions in the first place.

    The charity behind all this newspeak, Reunite, claims there is “no typical abducting parent”. Even by their own phony figures that’s a misleading statement. The typical abducting parent is a mother.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Keep writing Paul. You are one of the few persons here who has got nothing to lose from spelling out the truth. And God knows we need some honesty in this business.

  6. Paul says:

    Thank you for your appreciative comment, Anonymous. I do what little I can and hopefully we can all have some effect together. Like I keep saying, those Augean Stables that are UK family law need a good, old clean out, herculean-style from top to bottom

  7. Malcolm Lochhead says:

    Why is the image of a child with her father? The implication is that the child has been abducted by him – yet in my experience it is overwhelmingly women who leave the country taking their children with them. It seems quite an inappropriate and deliberately provocative illustration. What would one of the many fathers on the receiving end of a child abduction incident make of it, do you think?

    Maybe I’ll post a link on the Everyday Sexism Project!

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