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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The Consular Directorate at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is very pleased to contribute to reunite´s Legal News Page.

The FCO is the lead government department on parental child abductions involving British nationals to countries that have not signed the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (which aims to return an abducted child to the country where he or she normally lives, so that custody and access can be decided by the courts of that country). The Consular Directorate and our network of Embassies and Missions overseas deal with over 500 new cases of parental child abduction and cross-border custody disputes each year. Abductions to non-Hague countries tend to be harder to resolve as the left behind parent may need to start legal proceedings in overseas courts of they cannot come to an agreement with the other parent. Click here to read our leaflet on International Child Abduction which explains what the FCO can do to assist in child abduction cases.

We work closely with reunite and have supported their day-to-day operations since our inception. We have initiated a number of projects aimed at raising awareness of the problem of parental child abduction, including a highly successful media campaign in August 2010. reunite and the FCO also work together to foster relationships with non-government organisations overseas to facilitate crossborder mediation, e.g. in Egypt. We have produced a number of joint research papers with reunite which can be found on the Research page of reunite´s website.

The FCO lobbies internationally to encourage non-Hague countries to sign the 1980 Hague Convention and implement improved procedures for the return of abducted children. This is particularly important in countries such as Pakistan, Japan, Russia and Thailand where we continue to see a rise in abduction cases. An example of this work is the UK-Pakistan Protocol on Children Matters - signed in 2006 - which aims to return abducted children to the country where they normally live, so that issues of custody can be decided by the courts of that country. We have been supporting this judicial agreement through a series of training seminars and guidance for judges in Pakistan. Click here to read our leaflet on the Protocol. The leaflet is also available in Urdu by clicking here. We have been striving to develop a similar process with Egypt following the signing of the Cairo Declaration on judicial co-operation in 2005. To date we have brought together key British and Egyptian stakeholders from the judiciary, government and non-government organisations, with the aim of finding ways to increase the number of returns of abducted children from Egypt.

The FCO can offer specific assistance to those affected by child abduction, which may (depending on the details of each case) include travel advice, a consular visit to the child, provision of lists of English-speaking lawyers overseas and liaison with local authorities overseas. If you have a court order issued by an overseas court which is not being enforced, we may additionally be able to make representations to the local authorities in that country. If you wish to speak to the Consular Directorate to discuss a case or any other issue concerning abductions to non-Hague countries, please call 0207 008 1500. You can also access information on the Government website: