UK & World News
Parental Child Abduction Cases Almost Double
The number of children abducted by their parents has almost doubled over the last eight years, new figures have revealed.
A total of 512 cases involving 84 different countries were reported to British authorities in 2011/2012 - up from 272 in 51 countries in 2003/2004.
Newly-published figures from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) also show a quarter of people do not think or are unaware it is a crime for a parent to take their child overseas without the consent of the other parent.
Daisy Organ, head of the Child Abduction Section at the FCO, said the department received an average of four calls a day to its specialist advice line - more than half of which were new cases.
"The increase in parental child abduction cases is a major cause for concern, particularly in the lead up to the school holidays," she said.
"We know that before or during school holidays is one of the most common times for a child to be abducted.
"We hope that this campaign will help inform and educate the UK public and encourage parents thinking of abducting their child, to think twice before they cause significant distress to themselves and their family."
She said parents involved in such disputes may also face severe financial difficulties as they fight for custody of their child through foreign courts.
Research commissioned by the FCO showed half the UK population believe the Government can intervene to order the return of a child to the UK if he or she has been abducted by a parent.
But Ms Organ said parental child abduction cases can take years to resolve and that it was much harder to return a child from a country that has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention, an international agreement that aims to ensure the return of an abducted child.
According to statistics from Reunite International Child Abduction Centre, 70% of the charity's cases involve mothers taking the child.
Alison Shalaby, chief executive of Reunite, said: "It is important to remember that parental child abduction is not faith or country specific."
She said of most members of the public thought the majority of parental child abductions saw children taken to the Middle East, India and Pakistan.
"But it can happen to anyone, from any background," she said.
"Countries where children are abducted to can range from Australia, to France, to Thailand. We have seen a 206% increase in the number of children who have been abducted by a parent to a non-Hague country between 2001 and 2011."