Child abduction by a parent has reportedly doubled since 2003-2004, stated the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). In 2003-2004, 272 new cases of child abduction by a parent were reported. In 2012-2013, 580 cases were reported. In an attempt to solve this increasingly troubling situation, ‘Caught in the Middle’, a film, was recently published on YouTube. The film looks at the children who suffer the most from parental disagreements that lead to abduction.
According to the statistics and legal advisers helping to bring children home, many of these cases occur around Christmas or after summer holidays. These two times of year are considered the most stressful, which can lead to rash thinking from one parent. Abduction is detrimental to the child, who is suddenly removed from their parent, friends and familiar homeland.
The abductions are to foreign locations, which created the need to pass new laws as a means of putting a stop to such damaging cases. In 1980, the Hague Convention added a new law to cover parental childhood abduction.
The law was designed to ensure the quick and safe return of any child abducted by a parent. The law states a country participating in the programme must come to a conclusion within six weeks of the initial filing. Currently 89 states have signed the convention, including countries like South Korea and Kazakhstan. The convention states a child must be returned to their habitual residence and that a parent who abducts their child to another state is guilty of illegal acts.
The Hague Convention has a lot of grey areas for completion of actual return of the child. It has been 33 years since the original convention treaty was signed, but instead of numbers of abducted children decreasing, there is a higher prevalence of this issue.
Numerous reasons exist for why member states are unwilling, unable or slow to comply with the treaty. The United States is at least one country that is slow to react in returning abducted children to their home country. Noncompliance is generally based on legal fees. The United States does not agree to payment of the costs for attorneys or court proceedings necessary to ensure the safe return of the child. The USA is guilty of not adhering to the six-week return clause in most cases. The USA, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Greece and Honduras are all countries cited for noncompliance with the Hague Convention Treaty.
The FCO works with Reunite in an attempt to enforce the Hague Treaty. Reunite, a UK-based agency, has already seen 447 new cases for 2013, with 616 children involved. The FCO admitted it can take 10 or more years for some cases to be solved, rather than the six weeks required by the treaty. There are several cases in which a child is never returned to their habitual residence.
Despite the startling numbers offered by Reunite, there is some good occurring from the treaty. At least 412 cases have been prevented, which has helped 586 children. This is a small victory for the unfortunate situation too many children are finding themselves in.
The FCO announced that the 2012-2013 cases in the UK involved the USA, Poland and the Irish Republic, which are all Hague Convention countries. These three countries accounted for almost 100 child abduction cases. Non-Hague states like Pakistan, Thailand and India accounted for approximately 70 of the abduction cases. It is also interesting to note that 70% of all parental abduction cases are actually committed by the mother – which is in direct contrast to what most people would have thought.
Reunite and the FCO want to make it clear that more legal work is needed to bring children home and to prevent more cases from occurring. There are solutions to a bad relationship. Parents do not have to face fines or custodial sentences if they tackle the problem and get the help they need before illegally removing a child.