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Parental abduction: EU helps kids torn between two countries

Parental child abduction refers to a situation where a child is unlawfully removed from its habitual residence without the consent of the other parent, violating the custody or access rights of the latter

When one parent unlawfully takes her or his child abroad, the other is left with a difficult judicial battle. To ensure the prompt return of abducted children, more than 90 states, including all EU countries, are signed up to the 1980 Hague Convention, which offers a common legal framework. MEPs debate today the possibility of another eight countries joining the Convention and they will vote on it tomorrow. Follow it live on our website.

MEPs are expected to propose EU member states formally recognise the accession of Gabon, Andorra, the Seychelles, Russia, Albania, Singapore, Morocco and Armenia to the Hague Child Abduction Convention.

Heidi Hautala, a Finnish member of the Greens/EFA group, was in charge of writing the recommendation to MEPs. “The Convention gives us effective means to resolve these kinds of disputes between countries in amicable way,” she said, adding that more could still be done. “Family law has not been harmonised in the EU, but perhaps some steps should be taken. The harmonisation or at least clarification of the key concepts such as habitual residence or the custody rights could help member states to resolve these child abduction cases more efficiently.”

EP mediator

In 1987 the Parliament created the office of EP mediator for international parental child abduction. The current mediator is Mairead McGuinness, an Irish member of the EPP group. She said the role was about keeping a watchful eye on the evolving situation of child abductions and ensuring that the rights of the child are upheld while parents come to mediated settlements about their children.

“The best interest of the child is very often lost when parents are no longer on speaking terms or disagree about where a child should be reared. In these cases we need clear guidelines and legal certainty. ” said McGuinness.