Dads warned to look out for signs of parental child abduction

30 June 2011

Dads are being advised on how to prevent their children’s mothers abducting them and taking them abroad.

According to a new Government campaign,  every other day a British child is abducted by a parent to a country which has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention on international parental child abduction*. 

The latest figures represent a ten per cent increase in new cases handled by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2010/2011 and have been released to mark the launch of the FCO’s child abduction prevention campaign.

Evidence shows that many cases occur around school holidays when a parent refuses to return a child following a visit to the parent’s home country. In most cases these abductions are perpetrated by mothers.

Last year the FCO handled cases in 97 ‘non Hague’ countries ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. These are countries which have not signed up to the 1980 Hague convention on international parental child abduction and with whom negotiating the return of children to the UK can be extremely complex as there are no international agreements on returning children.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Jeremy Browne said the campaign will help people become more aware of what they could do if they think their child may be at risk.

“We are very concerned that we continue to see an increase in the number of cases of international parental child abduction. The latest figures suggest the problem affects people from all walks of life and not just certain types of families or particular countries. 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. The FCO will do whatever we can to provide advice and support but our role is limited, not least because we cannot interfere in the laws of another country.”

Sharon Cooke, Advice Line Manager for Reunite International Child Abduction Centre, welcomed the latest advice and said while sometimes there were no warning signs, there are things people could look for which may indicate their child was at risk.

“The most obvious warning sign is a break down in a relationship but 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; a change in circumstances such as leaving employment or redundancy, selling a house or giving up tenancy. There may also be a sudden change in contact arrangements or constant difficulty in being able to see the child,” she said.

“For many people the issue of parental child abduction is something with which they may not have had direct personal contact. There’s often a perception – fuelled by a number of high profile cases – that it’s about fathers abducting their children, however statistics show it is mainly mothers – either intentionally or unintentionally.

Sharon says, “The latest figures show just how widespread this problem has become. Our statistics for January to May 2011 show a 21% increase in the number of abductions to non-Hague States states compared to the same period last year. We have also seen a 21% per cent increase in the number of parents requesting advice on prevention of abduction. This demonstrates there is a need for information on preventative steps that a parent can take and it is essential that we continue to raise awareness of parental child abduction, after all it could happen to anyone.”

“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. Even after they have been found, the fear and pain of not knowing if they will return home is unimaginable.”

“If you are worried your child might be at risk, or if your child has been abducted you can call the Child Abduction Section at the Foreign Office on 0207 008 0878 or or reunite on 0116 2556 234.

*”The 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multi-lateral international treaty the aim of which is the return of a child who has been wrongfully removed or wrongfully retained away from the country where he or she normally lives, so that issues of residence (which parent a child should live with), relocation (which country a child should live in) and contact (access) can be decided by the courts of that country. “All cases that come under the Hague Convention are dealt with by one of the three Central Authorities in the UK (the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit covers England and Wales and there are two separate bodies for Scotland and Northern Ireland). To find out which countries are part of this Convention, visit

**Top 5 non-Hague countries with the largest number of new parental child abductions in 2010/11

Country 2009/2010 2010/2011

All non-Hague countries 146 161

Pakistan 24 21

Thailand 13 13

India 14 9

Algeria 0 9

Malaysia 6 7

Further information on parental child abduction can be found at:

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  • P. Tromp says:

    Although it is acknowledged in the article above that in most cases international child abductions are perpetrated by mothers, the article in its uncritical analysis then seems to be focussing on Muslim parents from non-Hague countries as the main perpetrators of, and problem in, international child abduction cases.

    Contrary to public myth’ and belief however, being echoed and replicated in the above article, the real truth and facts of the matter are that the main perpetrators of international child abduction are Western mothers from Western Hague countries like the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc. Two-thirds (67%) of all international child abductions are being perpetrated by these Western mothers to their Western Hague home countries.

    So contrary to public belief it are not the ‘Muslim parents’, i.e. the ‘Muslim fathers’ (who are even being tagged in the above article), who are being portrayed between the lines above as coming from backward Muslim non-Hague countries like Pakistan, India, Algeria, etc, who are the main perpetrators and problem in International Child Abduction cases.

    Instead it are British, Dutch, German, Spanish and Italian mothers abducting to their Western home countries who – like the ‘Western countries’ they abduct to – are the main perpetrators and problem in international child abduction cases.

    So while ‘Muslim parents and fathers’ are unjustly demonised, we turn a blind eye to the reality and facts of the crimes perpetrated by our Western mothers, who can often perpetrate these crimes with the support of our Western administrations, leaving Muslim and Western fathers and their children alike in the cold. That is the real issue and problem in international child abduction cases.

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      Thanks for your comments. This article was reporting on a specific government campaign around international child abduction, rather than claiming to cover the issue comprehensively – this is not our area of specialisation. By the way, we didn’t say anything about the religion of parents involved in these cases – but we did tag the article ‘Muslim fathers’ because we felt the story would be of interest to this group and those who work with them. You can find useful resources and information about child abduction on the Reunite International website. The Hague Convention child abduction section is here.

  • Protectyourself says:

    Be especially prepared in cases where the mother loses custody. If the judge or court appointed experts do not recommend protected visitation you need to really push back to get it or work out a deal where if there is more than one child you do not give them all to the mother at the same time. Also, requesting the custody decree to restrict the mother from leaving the country without your approval and notifying the consulate of the flight risk is also a good idea. There are two cases out there in the press where mothers were found to be unfit but were able to see the children unprotected and then abducted them to their home countries. The Grin case in Russia is a problem even though Russia has recently joined the Hague Convention. People are waiting to see whether Russia is serious about returning abducted children.
    There is much skepticism as to whether Russia will honor it’s obligations.
    Here are the details:
    The story describes an abduction by a Harvard-educated lawyer, Marianne Grin, a dual US-Russian citizen who was being divorced in Italy by her husband, a US citizen. After the court found Ms. Grin to suffer from serious psychiatric illness, “paranoid delusions” posing a danger to her children, sole custody of the couple’s four children was given to the father, in order to protect them. Grin then abducted them to Russia claiming she was saving them from the father and all those that were against her. The scary thing is that there was a similar case in Germany where the mother, after having been found to be psychology unfit, also with paranoid delusions, abducted her 2 children to Turkey. Ms. Mellersh then sadly committed suicide taking her two poor children with her.
    Since child abduction is a form of child abuse, we need to expect more from the judicial system and bring these examples to the attention of the judges and court appointed psychologists. We must push them to better protect our poor children.

  • Sid ahmed says:

    Hi every one.

    I am Algeria ana I am Muslim I live in London
    And I am affected by this as my ex wife doesn’t allow me to take my kids on holiday with me saying that I will take them to Algeria and she will never see them again.
    However their is so many ways for me to assure her that it won’t happen
    Even if Algeria is not part of the hage convention I believe that the British government could and can get to an agreement with Algeria for that they can oblige the person to give parental authorisation to the mother for her to be able to get the kids out of Algeria

    Government talks about human rights I don’t see my right as a father as I can’t have a normal holidays with my kids but the ex wife boyfriend can take them where ever he wants and act as father to them.
    This is just racism
    Why do I have to suffer because am Muslim and Algerian
    Why do I have to pay for it the hard way because my government didn’t sign the hage convention

    And why only Muslims are targeted is just politics isn’t it.
    Who ever can take children from their mother is a monster and non human as kids needs the mother mor than the father and Islam forbid this act.
    Thank you

  • MasB says:

    This is a little out of date, but I am just battling just such an issue. I need help to prevent my wife taking my kids to a middle east country. We are separated and I don’t trust her.

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