International child flee cases on increase

Source: BBC

Cases of a parent fleeing with their children to a different country are on the increase, a report has said.


Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales, Lord Justice Thorpe, said most instances involved eastern European countries.

His office dealt with 180 cases last year compared with 27 in 2007.

The Office of the Head of International Family Justice intervenes in disputes over children, such as custody, when the parents are in different countries.


It helps judges and lawyers when cases have stalled because two countries’ legal systems are involved and when international conventions on children’s rights are being flouted by overseas courts.

The International Family Justice annual report said there were 27 cases in 2007, 92 in 2010 and 180 in 2011.

Lord Justice Thorpe said: “The tendency of dangerous parents to bolt when social services are exercising legitimate protective powers is all too common.

“We are seeing a rising number of these types of cases being referred to the office, mostly involving eastern European countries.”

Makeshift shelter

The senior judge said that with almost two-thirds of children born in London in 2010 having a foreign parent there was “the potential for significant future growth” in cases.

Sharon Cooke from the international child abduction charity, Reunite, said the increasing ease of travel was a factor in the rise in case numbers.

“People are relocating, their jobs take them abroad and therefore the chances of meeting different people are greater,” she said.

“There’s a mixed national marriage and they decide to relocate back to England perhaps, or back to another country and unfortunately the relationship may fail and then one party brings the child to another country.”

As an example the report cited the case of two children brought unlawfully from Poland and found living in a makeshift shelter near live railway tracks in England.

They came to the UK with their father and uncle despite social services in Poland having a care order for the children.

In this case a breakdown in communications between English and Polish social services meant it was disputed whether or how the children should be returned to Poland.

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