Britain sees surge in parental child abduction abroad
Britain said Wednesday there had been an upsurge in the number of British children abducted by their parents and taken abroad, with Pakistan, Thailand and India the most common destinations.
The Foreign Office said that 161 children were taken over the past 12 months to countries that are outside an international treaty designed to ensure the return of wrongfully removed minors.
This compares to 146 in 2009/10 and 105 in 2008/9, said the foreign ministry. It added that the true figures are likely to be much higher as many cases go unreported.
"We are very concerned that we continue to see an increase in the number of cases of international parental child abduction," said Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne.
"The latest figures suggest the problem affects people from all walks of life and not just certain types of families or particular countries," he added.
Many cases occur around school holidays when a parent refuses to return a child following a visit to the parent's home country. Mothers are more likely to be responsible, the figures showed.
Although Pakistan, Thailand and India featured most prominently, there were cases in another 94 countries that are outside the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
"Finding a solution can be especially difficult if a child has been taken to a non-Hague country as there are no international systems in place to help you. This is why prevention is so important," Browne said.
Sharon Cooke, advice line manager for Reunite International Child Abduction Centre, said the most obvious warning sign was a relationship breakdown.
"Other signs may include a sudden interest in getting a passport or copy birth certificate for the child; a parent expressing a wish to holiday alone with the child", or a change in circumstances such as selling a house or losing a job.
"The psychological impact on children can be traumatic and for the left-behind parent, the shock and loss are unbearable, particularly if they don't know where their child is."
© 2011 AFP