60 ‘stolen’ custody kids stuck overseas last year


April 25, 2016

Source: The Australian

Fewer than half of the 114 children taken from Australia during custody disputes in the past fin­ancial year have been returned, despite appropriate action having been taken under The Hague convention.

Figures from the Attorney-General’s Department show Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner’s case is one of many involving children removed from the country by one parent against the other’s will.

australian_kid_abducted

Of the 114 children removed from Australia, only 54 have been returned. A bill that would have criminalised the retention of children overseas in defiance of Family Court orders has been bouncing between parliament and the Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee for at least five years.

The Family Court can intervene only in cases pertaining to countries that are signatories to The Hague convention, which is why Lebanon — not a signatory — is often the country of choice for parents who want to flee. Such was the case with Ms Faulkner, whose children were taken to Lebanon by their Lebanese-American father, prompting Ms Faulkner to launch a botched counter-abduction with the assistance of the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes.

Foreign Prisoners Support Service director Martin Hodgson, who helped win journalist Peter Greste’s freedom in an Egyptian court case, said yesterday he had represented two Australian women whose husbands fled to Lebanon with their children. “Lebanon is a safe harbour for this issue (custody),” he said. “It’s much easier (for women) to get redress in Saudi on custody than it is in Lebanon.”

International parental child abduction has proven a difficult problem for Australian politicians since the issue first came before the Senate committee in August 2011. Debate about what to do has been going on for so long that five of the six senators who sat in on original committee hearings are no longer in parliament. The one who is — Michaelia Cash — was not available for comment yesterday on why reform had taken so long.

Mark Furner, who sat on the committee — he is now an MP in the Queensland parliament — said he still supported the new laws, which would have made it a crime for a parent not to return their child when ordered by the Family Court.

A spokesman for Attorney-General George Brandis said yesterday the government was “considering its recommen­dations and continues to consult with stakeholders”.

In the two weeks since the Faulkner case exploded, another two cases of parental abduction have come before the Family Court. In the first, a mother known only as Ms Padwa has been ordered to return her six-year-old daughter to the father, in The Netherlands. The child was born in The Netherlands, but raised partly in Indonesia. Her ­father is Dutch, her mother is ­Indonesian and the case came ­before the Australian Family Court only because the mother is now married to an Australian.

In a second case, the chief executive of an international company has been ordered to send his two sons back to Sydney from New York. The father, known in court documents as Mr Bondelmonte, flew the boys, aged 15 and 17, on a business-class trip to Manhattan in January, then wrote an email to his former wife saying they all wanted to stay.

The court heard the older boy was “estranged from his mother and, at his request, has not had any contact with her since the end of September 2013”. The court also saw emails from the younger boy saying he wanted to stay in New York because it’s “awesome”. The mother told the court she “struggled financially and could not compete with the largesse the children enjoyed with the father”.

The court found the father was “flouting the court’s order and even acting in a manner to challenge the court’s authority”.

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Two children abducted by gunmen on outskirts of Beirut


April 7, 2016

Source: annahar.com

BEIRUT: Four gunmen kidnapped Wednesday two children in Hadath, on the southern outskirts of Beirut, over an alleged family dispute, a source told Annahar.

kidnapped-children-Australia

The source said the children were abducted while they were waiting for their school bus along with their grandmother.

The gunmen, who were reportedly driving a silver Hyundai, abducted Lahala El Amine (6 years old) and her younger brother Noah El Amine (4 years old) struck the grandmother Ibtisam El Amine on the head with a gun, the source added.

According to the source, the children’s father Ali El Amine and his wife Sally Clafinger, an Australian national, fell into a dispute and got separated after El Amine agreed to pay a monthly alimony.

The source said El Amine later flew the children from Australia back to Lebanon with Clafinger’s knowledge. However, Clafinger started sending threatening emails and text messages after El Amine stopped paying alimony before secretly traveling to Lebanon, and delegating gunmen to conduct the kidnapping, the source said.

Preliminary investigations suggested that Clafinger may have received help from local accomplices.
Soon after, Clafinger contacted El Amine on his personal phone and informed him that the children are with her, the source said.

The source said El Amine immediately notified general security of the abduction amid concerns that Clafinger may fly the children back to Australia.

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WA attacks United Nations decision over Poland custody case


February 8, 2016

Source: Perth Now

A LANDMARK United Nations decision has found WA authorities violated the human rights of a father and son who were torn apart by an international custody and child abduction dispute.

Parental-Abduction_Poland

But the UN Human Rights Committee’s ruling has dismayed one of WA’s top judges, who claims his court was not given the opportunity to provide information to the committee.

The UN upheld the complaint from a Polish-Australian father after his estranged wife took their son, then aged five, from Poland to WA in 2010 without his knowledge or consent. A Polish court had awarded the father sole custody.

The case is the first Australian family law matter to come before the UN committee, which ruled Australian authorities were guilty of an “arbitrary interference” in the father and son’s family life.

In a rare public statement on an individual case, Family Court of WA Chief Judge Stephen Thackray hit out at the UN, saying it relied on “misleading information”.

“If we had been asked, we would have been very pleased to assist the UN committee by ensuring that it had accurate information. Unfortunately, the information provided to the committee was quite misleading,” Judge Thackray said.

“It is particularly unfortunate that the committee did not appreciate that the complainant (father) had refused every opportunity offered to him to participate in the proceedings in the Family Court of WA.”

Whether Australian authorities respect or reject the UN’s views remains to be seen, as it is not enforceable here.

australian_embassy

The boy’s father argued that the Australian embassy in Warsaw helped his then-wife escape Poland, by getting their Polish-born son an emergency passport and drove them to the airport. The family had lived in Perth for three years before returning in 2009 to Poland, where the marriage crumbled.

His estranged spouse claimed she was the victim of domestic abuse — an accusation the father denies.

In 2011, a Family Court of WA judge ordered the boy be returned to Poland, but later that year the court’s full bench overturned that decision.

The court awarded sole parental responsibility to the mother in May 2014, with supervised access in Australia for the father.

The UN committee concluded Australia was obliged to provide an “effective remedy”, including ensuring regular contact between father and son, adequate compensation to the father and preventing similar violations in the future.

The 56-year-old father told The Sunday Times from Poland this week he would never give up fighting for his child and was hopeful Australia would accept the UN’s ruling.

He said he had had no contact with his son, now aged 11, since mid-2014.

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Patricia Nunez has appealed to her ex to bring her abducted children home


May 22, 2015

Source: news.com.au

IT HAS been almost a year and a half since Patricia Nunez last saw her two boys.

Patricia Nunez

And not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about their smiling faces — or if she is going to get them back.

Peyton, 11, and Nathaniel, 7, set off for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disneyland with their father Dariwn Lee in January last year.

Despite her reservations, Ms Nunez agreed to let her children take the overseas holiday in a bid to keep the peace following a lengthy and sometimes “poisonous” custody battle.

But she never imagined they would not come home.

“The last time I spoke to my children was the day before they were due to fly back to Australia,” Ms Nunez told news.com.au. “I have had no contact since.”

Patricia Nunez abducted

But what has been even more heartbreaking as well as frustrating for the Sydney mum is that her children are believed to be in Taiwan, a country which is not signed up The Hague Child Abduction Convention.

This means the Taiwanese authorities are not obliged to return Ms Nunez’s children to Australia.

But even if the country was signed up there is still very little authorities here can do.

While she has managed to obtain court orders for sole custody, she still has to lodge an application with the Taiwanese authorities to prove her ex has breached those court orders by failing to return the children to their mother. And that can take months.

There is also the fact parental abduction is not a crime in Australia.

While it is an offence to remove a child from Australia without the permission of the court or the other parent, it’s not a criminal offence if there are no court proceedings or orders preventing them from taking out of the country.

That is not to say authorities don’t do their utmost to find the abducted youngsters, its just they have less legal grounds to retrieve them.

According to figures from the National Missing Persons Coordination Centre, more than 400 children are abducted by a parent or family member every year — that’s around two or three children every single week.

And Australia has the highest rate per capita of international parental child abductions in the world.

In response, the Federal government in conjunction with the Australian Federal Police have developed an app for parents to alert police if their child disappears or is abducted.

The free technology allows families to store photographs and vital information about their children on their mobile phone, and features advice and checklists on what to do in the crucial few hours when something happens.

But once a child has been taken overseas, the process of getting them home is long, and in Ms Nunez’s case, almost impossible.

But she says she is extremely grateful for all the help she has received over the past year but feels the system renders parents helpless.

She explained she has spoken to “anyone that could possibly help” more than once and learnt how to navigate the complex legal process with help from family, friends and her lawyers.

Screen Shot 2015-05-22 at 22.50.11

And while she says focusing on trying to bring her kids home has helped “numb the pain”, it is always present.

“I feel like I am a victim of domestic violence,” she said. “I may not get beaten everyday but I am in pain every single day. I am a victim of domestic violence every single day because of this, and my children are victims of child abuse because of this.”

Ms Nunez says she has also thought of using other tactics such as hiring private investigators or “mercenaries” to bring her boys home but decided against them not just because of the cost but also because of the complications that could arise.

She says she is trying to keep faith that the path she has chosen will lead to the outcome she desperately desires.

She also says she hopes her children know she will never stop looking for them.

“I want them to know that I have never stopped loving them, I have never stopped looking for them and that I will find them,” she said. “I can’t wait for them to come home. I want them to know that things will go back to normal. And that I now promise that they can have a puppy.”

She also says she wants her ex to make contact with authorities.

“I just want him to know that it makes me really sad.,” she said. “I trusted him. He did the wrong thing. The boys need their mother and their father. I never denied him that. The boys deserve better. Do the right thing and bring them home.”

Any information regarding the childrens’ or husband’s whereabouts should be given to the Australian Federal Police in Sydney on 02 9286 4000 or 131 444 or at their local police station if in Victoria.

May 25 is International Missing Children’s Day. For further information or to show your support visitwww.helpbringthemhome.org.au/#

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Every year in Australia, more than 650 children are abducted by a parent or family member


May 19, 2015

Source: www.news.com.au

‘I don’t understand why things have come to this’

David Veasey hasn’t seen his children in over two years

Parental Kidnapping

ACROSS the country, thousands of dads and their kids enjoy kicking a ball, going swimming, or hanging out on the couch with hugs and tickles.

But David Veasey can’t do any of those things with his two children, Harrison, 11, and Laura, 13. Instead, he wonders where they are and whether he’ll ever see them again. Veasey hasn’t had any contact with his children since they were abducted by their mother in April 2013.

“It’s terrible,” he says. “I don’t know why contact was cut off. There’s a sense of loss and confusion. I fear for their safety. I don’t understand why things have come to this.”

It might sound astonishing that one parent can simply vanish with their children and nothing can be done about it, but it’s actually surprisingly common. Every year in Australia, more than 650 children are abducted by a parent or family member. Australia has the highest rate per capita of international parental child abductions in the world; it’s estimated two or three children are taken illegally in or out of the country by a parent every single week.

Veasey, 49, a solicitor from NSW’s Southern Highlands, is still struggling to understand and cope with his situation. He and his ex-wife Jane had been separated “amicably” for around a year and shared a co-parenting order given by the Family Court. In 2013, Jane moved from Sydney to the Gold Coast with Harrison and Laura, and it was decided their dad would visit every second weekend. “The last time I saw Harrison, we went to the circus and the beach,” he says. “It was always emotional saying goodbye, but we had a great weekend.”

On the third weekend Veasey was meant to visit, he received a text message from Jane. “She said they were moving in to a new house and the children weren’t available,” he recalls. “That was the last contact I ever had with them. I had two mobile phone numbers for them. At first, when I called, [both] went to voicemail, then they were disconnected. The Skype connection and emails were cut off, too. There was no way to get in touch with them.”

Veasey went to the police, but because parental abduction isn’t considered a criminal matter, he was told he would have to go through the Family Court to get a court order to try to find the children before the police could help.

“I had to apply for a recovery order [stating the children must be returned to him] so I could have help trying to find them,” he says. “I have one now, but we still can’t track them down.”

Harrison and Laura are normal, happy children. “They are easygoing, fantastic kids,” says their dad. “They love going to the movies and Questacon [Canberra’s National Science and Technology Centre]. They loved Ice Age. Harrison was — and I presume still is — into trains. They’re both very talented country-and-western singers, and Laura has won a number of competitions at music festivals. She has a real flair for performing.”

Veasey worries about them constantly. “I fear for their emotional wellbeing,” he says. “They had a strong network of friends in Sydney. Laura did singing lessons and netball; Harrison played the drums and rugby. They’ve been uprooted and taken to an area where they have no friends.”

Before contact was cut off, Veasey learnt they were being homeschooled. Not only does that make it hard to track them down, but “opportunities of interaction with children their own age have been taken away from them,” he says. “It’s hard to think about.”

Understandably, he worries about the effect that being wrenched away from the lives they once knew might have on Harrison and Laura. “Parental child abduction can have harmful physical and emotional effects on the children abducted,” confirms National Missing Persons Coordination Centre team leader, Rebecca Kotz. “Abducted children suffer the alienation of losing contact with their family and friends, miss their educational stability and are often hidden away from people around them. They are removed from almost everything familiar to them, including their toys, daily routine, their bedroom — sometimes even their name.”

Veasey says one of his main concerns is what his children might have been told by their mother: “There’s a fear that they might form a view of me based on what they’re told rather than what they know.” Kotz confirms that’s a possibility. “Children can be lied to by the abducting parent. In extreme cases, they’re told that the family they’ve left behind doesn’t love them anymore. Because of the impact on children, family child abduction can be seen as a form of child abuse.”

Parent_Child_abduction

Children abducted by strangers often make international news headlines. Madeleine McCann’s name is known across the world, and the effects of her disappearance on her family have been widely discussed by the media, which regularly runs stories on how the family is coping. But just because Veasey knows who has taken his children doesn’t lessen the huge impact on his life. “I think the level of emotion and grieving would be the same,” he says.

It’s not only parents who grieve for abducted children. “My parents don’t hear from their grandchildren and that’s very difficult for them as well,” Veasey says. “Every Christmas, they buy the children presents and put them under the tree. They remain wrapped and just get put in another room when the tree is taken down. It’s so sad.”

Although Veasey says most of his family and friends have been supportive, he worries that, as the years pass, there’s an expectation that he should perhaps move on with his life. “Over time, people just don’t want to know about it,” he says. “They don’t want to ask you about it any more. One friend — well, I suppose he’s not really a friend now — told me I should just get on with things.

“I’m no longer invited to certain events by friends with children of similar ages. Then there are things that I might be invited to, but don’t feel comfortable going to without the children. The ripples it has through the community, your friends, people you thought you were close to who decide this is all too hard — suddenly everything falls apart.”

The destruction of the remaining parent’s life is often a desired outcome by the abducting parent, says Kotz. “There are a number of reasons why a parent may abduct a child,” she explains. “In most cases, it’s for revenge. The intent of depriving the child, or other parent, of a relationship and taking them away from everything they know is traumatic, for the child and those left behind.”

Veasey functions on a day-to-day basis by going to work and seeing friends, but he feels his life is on hold. “I can’t go on holiday — I worry that as soon as I’d get on a plane they’d be located,” he says. “I started seeing a wonderful lady who had two children, but it was just too hard being with them and not Harrison and Laura. It’s not easy to lock them away and not think about them.”

As desperate as Veasey is to see Harrison and Laura again, he says he’s also very aware that a reunion might not be easy. “I haven’t seen them for over two years now — how would we interact after that long? It’s very easy to magnify all the issues and worry about what might happen.”

Although neither Veasey nor the police have been able to track the children down, there have been some sightings of the youngsters at country-music festivals, and Veasey has even seen some recent photos of them performing on stage. “It’s partly reassuring,” he says. “I know they were there and safe. But, in other ways, it increases the sense of loss, knowing I’m not involved in their lives.”

It’s these sightings that keep Veasey hopeful that Harrison and Laura will be found and one day they’ll be together again.

“I have to take it one day at a time,” he says. “I do believe they’ll be located and that it’s just a matter of time. And when they turn 16 — which isn’t too far away for Laura — they’ll be able to seek me out on their own.”

Until then, Veasey’s message for his two children is simple: “I love them, miss them and am there for them,” he says. “I’m always thinking of them.”

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Court hears from Manitoba mom fighting parental abduction charge


November 26 , 2014

Source: winnipegfreepress.com

A Westman mother accused of parental abduction — arrested as she was about to board a plane to Australia with her son — testified that she’d always intended to return to Manitoba.

Parental Kidnapping Australia

She says she was taking her son to visit her family for Christmas when, to her surprise, she was arrested by U.S. marshalls at the Los Angeles International Airport.

“I was in shock, I was scared, I was in disbelief,” the mother testified during her trial in Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench on Monday.

The Brandon Sun isn’t naming the parties involved in the case, in order to protect the identity of the boy who was seven-years-old at the time.

Court heard the incident came in the midst of a marriage that was falling apart.

The mother is originally from Australia. She and her husband met in that country in the mid-90s, wed in November 2001, and had a son.

The family moved to Canada, specifically to Westman, in 2008.

On Dec. 14, 2011 — the marriage crumbling — the mother picked up her son at school. She then drove with the boy to Minot, North Dakota and flew to L.A., via Minneapolis.

The father testified that on Dec. 14 2011, he returned to the family’s Westman home from work to find it in darkness.

Some of his wife’s jewelry was missing, and so were many of her and his son’s clothes. About $500 and some cash and travel bags were also gone.

While he guessed his wife and son may be headed for Australia, he said he didn’t really know where they’d gone and feared for their safety.

He couldn’t reach his wife when he texted and called her cellphone.

A call to his son’s teacher, his wife’s friends and her family in Australia failed to determine his family’s whereabouts.

It was then that he called RCMP who issued an amber alert.

RCMP contacted border officials and U.S. authorities, and determined that mother and son had a flight booked from LA to Australia.

Following her arrest at the LA airport, the mother was held at in a jail in that city until Feb. 24, 2012 when she was extradited to Canada with her consent.

After his wife’s arrest, the father travelled to LA to pick up his son, who had been placed in a foster home overnight, and brought him home to Canada.

His son was left confused and upset by the ordeal, the father testified.

Child Kidnapping Parent

Prior to the incident, he said, his wife had asked about the possibiliy of moving with her son back to Australia after the couple separated.

The father said he was against that idea, and hadn’t given his consent for his wife to travel with their son to LA or beyond.

While they’d discussed separation, there were no family court proceedings underway, so both parties had joint custody of their son at the time.

On her part, the mother testified that she needed space from her husband to think about their separation.

She’d learned that her husband had started to pursue a relationship with another woman.

Originally, she’d planned to take her son to a Brandon hotel for a getaway, but was worried her husband would stop by.

She was scared when her husband delivered a look of “pure hatred,” she testified, and made a snap decision to make good on a previous plan to take her son to Australia to visit her family for Christmas.

In LA, she called her family who booked the tickets for the leg to Australia.

She said she left without telling her husband, but he’d known she’d wanted to travel to her home country. She intended to call her husband from there, she said, and always intended to return to Manitoba.

Initially, upon her return to Canada, she was placed on a bail with an order to have no contact with her son.

However, court heard that she and her estranged husband now share equal access to their son who splits his time between his parents’ homes.

“He’s happy. He loves his mom, he loves his dad,” the mother testified. “He’s glad he sees us both.”

The trial continues today.

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