Kidnapping: Saudi Arabia urges citizens not to travel to Lebanon

September 16, 2013

Source: The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia has warned its citizens against travel to Lebanon, reported the Saudi national news agency (SPA) Thursday. “The Foreign Ministry calls on all citizens not to travel to Lebanon for their own safety due to the current situation in the region,” SPA said.

Ali Awad Asiri

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri speaks during a press conference in Rabieh, Tuesday, July 2, 2013. (The Daily Star/Charbel Nakhoul, HO)


The Ministry also called on citizens living in or visiting Lebanon to contact the Saudi embassy in Beirut to provide them with the necessary assistance.

Last week, the U.S. urged its non-emergency staff and their family members to leave Lebanon, citing security concerns.

That announcement came after U.S. President Barack Obama said he would seek congressional approval for a military strike against the regime in Lebanon’s neighbor Syria. But Obama Tuesday urged Congress to put off the vote, vowing to explore a diplomatic plan from Russia to take away Syria’s chemical arms.

Lebanon has vowed to protect embassies in the country.

Caretaker Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said Wednesday that Lebanon regards as important the security of foreign embassies.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon Ali Asiri has recently said that his country has put in place a contingency plan for the evacuation of its nationals in Lebanon.

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Kidnapping and Terror in The Middle East and North Africa: Foreign Office raises Egypt terror threat

November 3, 2012

Source: The Guardian

Egypt terror threat raised from medium to high after series of deadly militant attacks across north Sinai.

The Foreign Office has raised its terrorism warning for visitors to Egypt from medium to high, particularly urging Britons against travel to the Sinai region, after a recent spate of militant attacks.

The change comes on the same day that a report revealed that police in Egypt had foiled a plot by al-Qaida-linked militants to attack tourists in the popular Red Sea coastal resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. The Mirror said the attack, involving firearms and rocket-propelled grenades, had been planned for Christmas.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said she could not comment on any link, adding that changes to travel advice were based on “a number of sources”.

While Sharm el-Sheikh is on the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula, it and other nearby resorts, Taba, Nuweiba and Dahab, are excluded from the Foreign Office advice against travel to the region.

The Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that on 2 November we amended our travel advice for Egypt. Our advice makes clear that there is a high threat from terrorism in Egypt.”

Its website says: “Although security is tight throughout the country, especially in resort areas, there remains a high risk of attacks, which could be indiscriminate, including in public places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers such as hotels and restaurants.”

The advice warns against all travel to north Sinai, where there have been attacks on security forces near the border with Gaza and Egypt, including one which killed 16 soldiers.

The advice says that even in south Sinai security has deteriorated this year, with a number of hijacks and kidnaps away from resort areas.

Egypt has been trying to rebuild its tourism industry after last year’s widespread unrest ended the long rule of Hosni Murbarak as president.

Last month the antiquities minister, Muhammad Ibrahim, reopened the restored pyramid of Chefren and six tombs at Giza, using the occasion to stress the country’s safety for tourists.

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Child Abduction: Teach your child about stranger safety

August 20, 2012

Source: The Asian Parent

It pays to be cautious of who your child engages with in public places, but are we emphasising the wrong things when we teach our children about stranger-danger?

We’ve seen and heard the stories in the news, on crime dramas and even from friends. Child abductions, paedophilia, even maternal psychological conditions that lead to women believing other people’s children to be their own. As parents, we treat any and every of such stories dead seriously, but are we scaring ourselves — and our children — into a corner?

Protecting our children will always be the foremost priority. But existing perceptions of “stranger-danger” builds itself around a stereotyped shady-looking person whose sole purpose in life is to take away your child and do bad things to him or her.

Reality check: I’m not that person. And neither is more than 99.9998% of the Singapore population (or just about anywhere else), the last time I checked anywhere outside my house.

In fact, teaching your child about stranger-danger based on popular concepts may end up harming your child’s social development – and may even put your child in more danger. We explain and bust 3 major myths of stranger-danger so you can be the judge.

shutterstock 16842502 Teach your child about stranger safetyMyth 1: Don’t talk to strangers

Strangers are everywhere. They can be the neighbours that never say hi, casual shoppers in malls, hawkers selling you chicken rice, and even fill up an entire classroom on your child’s first day at school. Teaching your child not to talk to strangers will instill a fear of socialising within your child, when in reality, your child will need to learn to deal with strangers for the rest of his or her life.

Myth 2: Don’t go anywhere on your own

Part of a child’s learning and development depends on the ability to explore the world around him or her, with or without parental supervision. At some point your child will be old enough to take care of him- or herself, but before then, cautioning your child not to venture out on his or her own will only delay the process, and is also a major cause of parent-child attachment issues.

Myth 3: Stranger-danger is everywhere

Our media will play up missing children reports, not only for the sake of finding these children, but also because the drama draws more eyeballs. Similarly, local authorities will always caution for us to err on the side of safety, simply because it is the foolproof way of cutting down such incidents. Based on police statistics, though 3000 missing persons reports are filed annually, only 0.0002% of Singapore’s resident population remain missing every year, most of whom are adults and/or runaways, and not kidnap victims.

In fact, your child will much more likely be harmed or abducted by a known relative or family acquaintance than a stranger. But given that kidnapping is a crime punishable by death in Singapore, chances of your child being abducted is extremely slim given the risk the would-be abductor has to place on his life for the act.

We share some sensible insights by Lenore Skenazy, host of the radical parenting show “World’s Worst Mom”, who also helps reconnect worried parents with reality in her book, Free-Range Kids.

Teach your child to interact with strangers

Outside of your own family and social circle, the world is mostly made up of strangers, and in reality, we’re really all good people who just think your child is adorable.

In her book, Lenore categorically states that “(the) ‘Don’t trust anyone!’ lesson could conceivably end up making (a child) less safe”. In the event that a child does encounter a predator, he or she won’t be equipped with the social understanding that calling for help from other strangers and attracting attention is a viable option.

“The safest kids are the confident kids”

So says Ernie Allen, head of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. His organisation provides a solution based on studying children successfully escaping abduction attempts — the kids did it by kicking and screaming, a reaction that children with reservations about themselves would probably not think of doing. Allen also mentions that this is the “same techniques you’d use to resist peer pressure over drugs or bullies or gangs.”

You are the precedent

Remember your own childhood and compare it to your own child’s time. “Forty years ago,” Lenore says, “the majority of U.S. children walked or biked to school. Today, about 10 percent do. Meantime, 70 percent of today’s moms say they played outside as kids. But only 31 percent of their kids do.”

Lenore’s Free-Range Kids movement seeks to ensure parents around the world that the world is a much safer place than the media — or we — make it out to be. But more importantly, it’s also about giving our children the childhood they deserve, full of play and none of the worry, just as we had when we were kids.

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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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Abducted children not priority, fathers say – Canadian police and courts called ineffective

Source: CBC News

Two Canadian fathers whose children were allegedly abducted by their mothers and taken to European countries say authorities have done little to try to enforce court orders and bring them back.

Calum Hughes breaks down when he talks about how he misses his little girl, who he has not seen since 2009. (CBC)

“I’m holding my hands up going, ‘Can somebody please do something about this?'” said Calum Hughes, whose five-year-old daughter Livia was allegedly abducted by her mother from B.C. and taken to Italy in 2009.

“Somebody is not doing their job behind a desk,” said Gary Mezo, from Thunder Bay, Ont. His two-year-old son Gary Jr. has been in Hungary for a year. Court records confirm his mother took him there without his father’s permission.

“I believe Canada has to put its foot down — finally — and do whatever is written in law what has been ordered in court.”

There is a two-year-old Canada-wide warrant for the arrest of Hughes’s ex-wife, Sibylla Verdi, for child abduction. He hasn’t seen Livia for 2½ years.

“It’s the first thing I think of when I wake up and the last thing I think of before I go to sleep at night,” said Hughes, of Kelowna, B.C.

Fathers have legal custody

Hughes is a hospital administrator and Mezo a successful businessman. Both were granted sole custody of their children by Canadian courts, but they said those orders have proven meaningless.

“A Canadian Supreme Court full custody ruling has no teeth,” said Hughes. “There’s not a lot of consequence that I see for a parent to just pick up and leave.”

Mezo alleges his ex was planning to abduct his son for more than a year.

“Before my child left, I told the police several times, please do something,” he said.

He has an affidavit and emails from a boyfriend of his child’s mother, showing she planned to leave and then claim abuse.

“He felt so bad that he couldn’t live with himself. He said that he had to do something about it. He wants me to have my child back,” said Mezo.

The Missing Children Society of Canada said while it has seen a steady increase in calls about international parental abductions, there is effectively nothing in place that could have prevented the abductions.

Child’s rights ‘at risk’

“The child’s rights are at risk here,” said private investigator Ted Davis. “A woman or man who wants to take their child [outside Canada or the U.S.] can simply jump on a plane and leave.”

Davis said his office is working on 60 cases of international abductions from Canada, dating back six years.

The latest RCMP figures show there were 237 reports of parental abduction in Canada in 2009 and 41 per cent of the children were under the age of five.

More than half the cases were resolved or withdrawn within a day. RCMP spokesperson Julie Gagnon said she didn’t know how many of the remaining children were taken to other countries.

She said when there is a warrant, as in the Hughes case, the RCMP can ask Interpol to put a “red notice” in the system, so the alleged abductor could be arrested at any border crossing.

She said, depending on the country and the case, extradition can also be initiated.

Dads desperate

However, Hughes said he heard nothing from the RCMP after a charge was laid against his ex-wife two years ago.

“They have done nothing,” said Hughes. “What message are we sending to everybody out there? If you don’t get a court order that you like, take your kid and leave the country? You will suffer no consequence? Is the Canadian justice system OK with that?”

RCMP spokesperson Dan Moskaluk insisted the investigation is still active.

“Resources involved in advancing this case since 2009 has involved RCMP investigators from the Kelowna detachment to assistance from our international policing branch liaison officer in Italy,” Moskaluk said.

CBC News sent messages to Sibylla Verdi, but received no response.

Mezo said he tried to get Thunder Bay police to pursue abduction charges in his case, but the investigating officer told him she couldn’t get approval. He believes that is partly because his wife falsely alleged he was abusive.

“It boils down to one thing — no reasonable grounds to get a charge approved,” said Thunder Bay police spokesperson Chris Adams. “These cases are very problematic. We don’t have the authority to enforce custody in another country.”

“It’s a very expensive proposition to initiate extradition on an abduction charge,” said Davis. “It’s not a priority [to police]. They don’t like getting involved in family cases when it’s not a life-threatening situation.”

Davis said under the current system, where parents can make applications for the child’s return under the Hague Convention, it takes two to three years and several thousand dollars to get children back, and it can only be done with signatory countries.

System slow, expensive

“If there’s no one stirring the pot, then no one is working the case,” he said. “The system is effective, but slow and very, very expensive.”

Both fathers made Hague applications. Italy refused to send Livia home, though, because the court believed his Italian ex-wife’s assertion that Hughes was an unfit father, allegations that were rejected by a Canadian court.

“That’s all needless details and garbage,” said Hughes. “I’ve spent over a hundred thousand dollars and how many hours in court. I’ve ended up with nothing in terms of a relationship with my daughter. ”

Mezo’s application is stalled in the Hungarian court system, which has sympathized with the Hungarian-born mother of his son.

“The Hungarian court said that ‘well there is no warrant out for her. She didn’t do anything wrong in Canada. So therefore we take it all with a grain of salt whatever the judge ordered in Canada,'” said Mezo.

His son’s mother, Boglarka Balog, sent an email to CBC News, again claiming abuse.

“The [Hungarian] court will value the behaviour of Gary that was violent so much in Hungary too, not only in Canada,” she wrote.

“Countries protect their own,” said Davis. “The stumbling block in Hague cases is when the court [overseas] is convinced there’s risk to the child [if returned].”

Call for exit controls

Hughes and Mezo said Canada should put some type of exit control in place, to try to stop parents from leaving with children they don’t have custody of.

“I was devastated when I learned [Livia and her mother] were gone because I knew what that meant,” said Hughes. “If they had been stopped, this would have all been prevented.”

“It’s happening everywhere [in the world]. But nobody is doing anything about it. Somebody has to step up and put their foot down and say enough is enough,” said Mezo.

Airlines and governments advise travellers to have a consent letter from the other parent if they want to fly with a child alone, but that system is voluntary.

“It’s smoke and mirrors — and those letters can be forged,” said Davis, who agreed exit controls are needed. “We have a file cabinet full of international cases.”

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) confirmed airlines can do nothing to stop a parent from leaving with a child, even when they don’t have a letter.

“Since there’s no governmental requirement, the airlines have no legal mandate to be checking these,” said spokesperson Perry Flint, who added airlines could open themselves up to lawsuits if they refuse to let a paying passenger board.

A U.S. government agency recently proposed establishing a “no fly” list – for parents who the courts have ruled are likely to abduct their children.

CBC News asked several federal departments if something like that is being considered for Canada. Transport Canada said it is not, Foreign Affairs did not reply and Public Safety said that would not be its department.

Both fathers said their children have been let down by a system that is ineffective and hasn’t made children’s rights a priority.

“I’ve tried everything by the book,” said Hughes. “This [going public] is my last hope to ever see Livia.”

“I wouldn’t have imagined in my dreams that my country would let me down or let my son down,” said Mezo. “It’s hard to go to work and pay taxes … when this country is not backing you up.”

Read: International Parental Child Abduction: The Hague convention – Proved Useless 

Read: When the Hague Convention won`t help

And: The Hague Convention is not enough to recover your child

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Breaking News: Children in the European Union gain additional protection against international abduction

BRUSSELS, December 23, 2011 – Wednesday, the European Commission proposed the EU accept Russia and seven more countries as parties to an international convention designed to prevent child abduction. The 1980 Hague Convention ensures the prompt return of children abducted by one parent to their habitual country of residence and protects parental access rights.

International abduction by a parent is a global problem affecting several thousand children each year. Wednesday’s move will effectively extend protection for children in the EU to eight new countries: Russia, Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Gabon, Morocco, Seychelles and Singapore. The Convention has been ratified by 86 countries to date, including all EU members.

“Preventing child abduction is an essential part of the EU’s agenda for children’s rights,” said Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner. “We already have strict rules in place to ensure abducted children can be returned and disputes swiftly solved within the EU. By welcoming Russia and others as EU counterparts under this international agreement, we can make sure children are similarly protected at a global level as well.”

If one parent in an abduction case comes from outside the EU, the Hague Convention only applies if that parent’s country of origin is a member of the Convention. All EU Member States are party to the Convention and the European Commission actively promotes membership of the Convention at an international level so that children in the EU can be better protected worldwide.

This multilateral treaty does not seek to adjudicate in custody cases, but provides for a procedure whereby an abducted child can be returned promptly to his or her home country. Once sent back, the child’s local authorities can determine where and with whom the child should live. The Convention is also designed to secure protection for rights of access.

If a parent abducts a child within the EU, the so-called Brussels IIa Regulation (Council Regulation 2201/2003) imposes strict obligations to ensure the return of the child. Under the Regulation, the courts in the EU Member State to which the child has been abducted cannot refuse an order to return a child to the Member State of origin.

Data recently collected shows that the Regulation works well: in general, child abduction disputes between EU Member States are solved in a much more efficient and swift manner, thanks notably to the removal of the cumbersome ‘exequatur’ procedure. This means a shorter period for courts to recognise and enforce judgements from another Member State.

Article 38(4) of the 1980 Convention stipulates that the Convention applies between the acceding country and Contracting States that declare their acceptance of the accession. Therefore, the European Union has to decide whether to accept the accession of Russia and other countries.

As the matter of international child abduction falls into the exclusive external competence of the European Union, the decision whether the EU, via its Member States, should accept other countries’ accession to the 1980 Convention has to be taken by means of a Council Decision.

In February 2011, the Commission presented an EU agenda for reinforcing the rights of the child by putting the principles of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights into practice. It includes a series of concrete actions where the EU can provide added value to policies for children’s well-being and safety, including promoting child-friendly justice, better informing children about their rights, and making the internet safer for kids.

For more information: International Parental Child Abduction: The Hague convention – Proved Useless

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NOTE: We are always available, also during The Christmas holidays. Christmas is the high season for parental abductions.

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Warning of child abduction to sharia law states

Source:The Irish Times, Dublin

FORMER MEP Mary Banotti has called on the Government to monitor the number of reported child abduction cases involving sharia law countries which have not signed international conventions on the issue.

Figures published by the Department of Justice last week showed that a record 141 transnational child abduction cases were dealt with by the authorities last year.

The department said 141 cases involving 183 children were received by the Central Authority for Child Abduction in 2008, an increase of 42 cases on 2007 and the highest annual total since the unit was established in 1991.

However, Ms Banotti, who is president of Irish Centre for Parentally Abducted Children, said it was very difficult to retrieve children who were abducted by one parent to a state that had not signed the Hague conventions on child abduction. Cases involving countries governed by sharia law were particularly difficult to resolve.

“I think there should be a record kept of all children removed to sharia law countries,” she said.

Ms Banotti pointed to a case in which an Irish woman, originally from a north African state, was reunited in January with her four children six years after her husband took them back to their country of origin without her consent. Because the African state had not signed the Hague conventions, the woman had no legal avenue to pursue in order to retrieve her children, who were aged between two and seven when they were taken in 2002.

She was eventually reunited with them in January after her husband was arrested by gardaí on his return to Ireland.

Ms Banotti said the latest child abduction figures corroborated her organisation’s view that the problem remained significant. The centre received reports of seven abductions in the past week.

A major shift in trends in recent years was that, whereas women until recently made up the vast majority of those reporting abduction, today at least half of reports came from men.

While the overwhelming majority of transnational abduction cases investigated here once involved the United States and the UK, recent immigration patterns are reflected in the variety of central and eastern European countries that have appeared on the department’s list in recent years.

In 2008, a total of 33 cases related to states that joined the EU since 2004, including Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania.

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Service

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Why are International Abductions within the Family Increasing?

By: Safekids
Statistics from international child abduction charity suggest that international child abductions within the family have increased by 87% since 1995. The reasons for this may be many, but it is believed that a variety of factors have made international travel and residence much easier for most people. Reasons for this increase likely include:
  • A rise in the number of parents who break up with each other, including through divorce.
  • A rise in the number of people marrying foreign nationals (meaning that these partners will become parents with origins and possibly residences in other countries).
  • Cheaper international travel options, which allows more parents to purchase passage for themselves and their children to other countries.
  • Greater familiarity with immigration laws, which means that more people are aware of where and how they can work in other countries, particularly those in the European Union.

How Can Parents Guard their Children Against an International Abduction?

There are many things that a guardian parent can do to prevent their ex-partner from taking their children across international boundaries. Guardian parents can:

  • Obtain a court order as to the custody or residence of their children. If the child ordinarily resides in a specific country or was abducted from that country, a court order is necessary for it to be considered an abduction.
  • Prevent passports from being issued for their children. You will likely need an order of the court as well as this request in writing.
  • Tell the police of your suspicions.
  • Request a Port Warning or Port Alert in urgent/imminent circumstances. Only the police are able to issue such an alert, and only when there is good reason to believe that the child may be taken out of the country.
  • Contact a solicitor  to discuss their personal situation and transmit this information to the partner they believe may be thinking of abducting their children.

Child abduction within the family is a crime much like any other type of child abduction. If you fear that your child may be abducted by another family member, take necessary precautions to keep him/her safe, and if the worst does happen report the abduction immediately. Don’t hesitate, or you may regret the wait later.

Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Service

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Missing Children Europe

Missing Children Europe is the European Federation for Missing and Sexually Exploited Children.

As an umbrella organisation, it represents 23 Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) active in 16 Member States of the European Union. Each of these organisations is active in cases of missing and/or sexually exploited children at grassroots level, including prevention and support for victims.


Published by: ABP World Group International Child Recovery Services