News story

Foreign Office and Reunite highlight impact of child abduction

The FCO urges parents to consider consequences of international child abduction

The damage and emotional trauma caused by a parent abducting their child abroad has been highlighted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and UK charity Reunite International ahead of the school summer holidays, when abductions are most common.

Every year, the FCO helps hundreds of British people who are dealing with custody disputes, or cases of international parental child abduction – when a parent takes and keeps their child outside of the UK without the permission of their other parent. Statistics show that cases peak in the summer months.

Foreign Office Minister for Consular Policy James Duddridge said:

We see all too often the devastating impact these cases have on the child, parents and families involved – and they can take years to resolve. As well as emotional distress, both parents often face severe financial difficulties as they fight for custody of their child through foreign courts. By abducting a child, a parent may also be committing a criminal offence and can face a prison sentence.

We urge all parents to really think through the potentially devastating consequences for themselves, for their family and, most importantly, for the child left caught in the middle before.

Alison Shalaby Chief Executive Officer of Reunite, said:

Parental child abduction fractures the lives of all concerned and has far reaching consequences, particularly for the child.

We would urge any parent who fears their child may be removed, or is thinking about removing their child, to contact our advice line so we can discuss their options and help them find a less damaging resolution.

The FCO short film ‘Caught in the Middle’ encourages parents to think of the consequences before doing something that could have an effect on their children and wider family:

Caught in the Middle

Where to go for help

There are lots of sources of advice and support to help parents through difficult periods, including if you think your child is at risk of being abducted or has already been taken. You should contact the police, as the abducting parent may have committed a criminal offence. You can call the Reunite helpline for free advice on 01162 556 234. It is important to know your legal position, and so you may want to contact a specialist solicitor. Counselling and support is available through Relate and the Samaritans. Alternatively, you can contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 020 7008 1500, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Visit International Child Abduction for more information. Our advice leaflet gives more information and contact details.

Further information

In 2014/2015 the FCO dealt with 493 new child custody and international child abduction cases, and in 2015/2016 the FCO dealt with 445 new cases.

Media enquiries