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Parents ‘abdicated responsibility’ for stranded children

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The parents of two children who came to England alone “abdicated their responsibility” for them, the Family Court has declared.

Last September the two children, aged 13 and 10, arrived at an undisclosed London airport from Pakistan. They had flown via the island nation of Bahrain. Their mother was a British citizen who lived in Pakistan following a 2010 separation from the children’s father in Holland.

As the children had nowhere to go and no means of support in the UK, they were taken into foster care by the London Borough of Hillingdon. Due to the “unusual circumstances” of the case, the local authority social workers struggled to put together a reliable family history. The children’s father in Holland was unaware that they travelled to England as he had not seen them since 2010. He also said he did not want to have any contact with them.

Getting in touch with the mother also proved difficult. The address she provided did not exist and when she was finally contacted by telephone she would not give the local authority any information about her whereabouts. She did, however, provide a statement which said she had sent the children to the UK to get a better education than they would receive in Pakistan. She also alleged her current husband had been abusive towards them.

The local authority applied to the family court for permission to have the children stay with their current foster family long term. They also proposed to keep them in contact with their birth family.

At the Family Court, Mrs Justice Theis ruled the children’s legal or ‘habitual residence’ could not be established. Under Article 13 of Brussels II Revised (BIIR), jurisdiction in such cases falls to the country where the children are present. BIIR is a European Union regulation designed to resolve conflicts in family law between member states.

The judge declared that the children had suffered “significant emotional harm and neglect by being abandoned in the UK”. Even though the mother may have acted with “the best of intentions to protect the children from further harm from her husband and to enable them to have a better life”, the action she took was dangerous and damaging the judge said.

Mrs Justice Theis approved the local authority’s plan for the children’s care and ruled that they should remain in their foster placement on a long term basis.

Read London Borough of Hillingdon v DS & Others here.

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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