With the Christmas school holidays fast approaching, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Reunite are raising awareness of international parental child abduction and urging any parent considering abducting their child to think through the devastating consequences for all involved. On this issue our message is clear: abducting a child overseas is never the right answer, and it can create lasting damage to all involved.
Hayley Griffiths, Children’s Policy Advisor at the FCO, said:
The FCO dealt with 553 international parental abduction and child custody cases* in 2013/14. Together with Reunite we support and assist hundreds of families coping with the devastating effects of child abduction. We are calling on all parents considering taking this step to really think through the consequences – for themselves, for their family and, most importantly, for the child left caught in the middle.
Parents may not be aware that by abducting their child, they may commit a criminal offence punishable by custodial sentence.
Alison Shalaby, Chief Executive of Reunite, said:
This year Reunite has seen a 30% increase in the number of children abducted to non-Hague Convention countries such as China, Pakistan, Somalia and Jamaica. With no international conventions in place between the UK and these countries, parents face tremendous legal, financial and cultural barriers when seeking the return of their children.
Calls to our advice line have increased by 37% this year and in the last 12 months we have managed over 16,000 calls. Parental child abduction is recognised as a form of child abuse and we would urge any parent who has concerns to contact our advice line on 0116 2556 234.
Last year, the FCO launched a hard-hitting film, Caught in the Middle, to encourage parents to think of the consequences before doing something that could have devastating effects on their children and family.
Caught in the middle
Where to go for help
There are lots of free 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 can call the Reunite helpline on 01162 556 234. You can also call social services and speak to 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 or read our advice leaflet.
*Figures from April 2013 to March 2014
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About the FCO’s ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign
The ‘Know Before You Go’ campaign targets a number of audiences, from gap year students to package holidaymakers; sports fans to older travellers and people visiting friends and family abroad. The campaign works with more than 300 travel industry partners to communicate its messages. For more information visit our Know Before You Go page.
If you have any enquiries for FCO consular staff before you go or while abroad you can use the FCO’s Twitter service @FCOtravel. Questions are answered 9am-6pm GMT, Monday to Friday and FCO staff aim to respond within 30 minutes. This service adds to the ways that British people travelling or living overseas can already get in touch with the FCO: by emailing our travel advice team or contacting local consular staff.
You can keep up-to-date with the latest FCO travel advice by signing up to the FCO’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.