April 13, 2013
Source: The Portugal News
The president of the Portuguese Association for Missing Children (APCD) has revealed that the number of cases of parental kidnapping in Portugal increased last year by 50 percent and described the situation as “worrying” due to a lack of mechanisms that are quick enough to tackle the problem.
Speaking to Lusa News Agency Patrícia Cipriano explained that statistics regarding missing children in Portugal and in Europe are “unreliable and not even close to reality” as figures often include several disappearances of the same child.
Because of this situation the APCD began counting the number of disappearances in Portugal.
“We discovered that, in 2012, there was an increase of around 50 percent in the number of cases, for example, of parental abduction (cases where one parent keeps a child from the other)”, Ms. Cipriano said during the inauguration of the association’s new Lisbon headquarters.
This is a matter that “rather worries” the association, because “Portugal does not have mechanisms that are quick enough to deal with this situation”, she stressed.
“We have very serious situations that have nothing to do with the economic crisis, or with the fact there is a marriage then a divorce between people of different nationalities”,
Patrícia Cipriano explained, adding: “what is happening is that people have a feeling of impunity with regard to this type of behaviour.”
Many times, when a father or a mother wants to hurt the other, they will do so by “using their children as instruments”: “We have witnessed situations that are very problematic and sad” and which have had “very serious” consequences for the child, she recalled.
In some cases children had been ‘missing’ from the age of five until 15, and developed “serious symptoms of being very emotionally affected; they have panic attacks, sleep poorly and wet their beds late on.”
“It is sad, essentially, that there are no authorities in Portugal that clearly understand these phenomena”, the head of the APCD lamented.
She further added that there are situations in which “the courts have come to a complete standstill, they can’t resolve it and they don’t act in the child’s best interest, I don’t know if that is because of a lack of training or in some cases just a lack of common sense.”
The new headquarters aim to serve a region in which a growing number of disappearances is registered year-on-year; Lisbon and Vale do Tejo.
It is also open for members of the public to report cases of children being abused or sexually exploited.
Quoting figures from the GNR police, Patrícia Cipriano recalled that in 2012, 251 children under the age of 18 were reported missing in Lisbon and 114 reports of sexual abuse involving minors under the age of 16 were also taken.
On top of that, every year between 1,500 and 2,000 cases of missing children are investigated by the PJ police.
“Evidently, in many cases these incidents are not real disappearances, but occurrences”, Ms. Cirpriano explained, elaborating that if one child runs away from an institution ten times, that counts as ten separate incidents.
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