Reporters

Child abductions: should Belgium do like the Brits?

Each year thousands of children are abducted by a parent and taken abroad.  Child Focus, the foundation for missing and sexual exploited children, dealt with 409 cases last year.  In 275 of these cases children were really abducted while in the rest of cases Child Focus was able to mediate.

The grounds for such abductions are multifarious: sometimes a parent is returning to his or her country of origin, they have found a new job or partner abroad or they are homesick for their country of origin or feel they no longer have a strong bond with Belgium.

Child Focus is now arguing that abducted children often feel they are not sufficiently involved in the court process.  Research conducted in 17 EU countries showed that in only half of all court proceedings the interests of the children were taken into account.

A lot of work still needs to be done: the children who are heard in the proceedings receive scant preparation and the procedure isn't adapted to their age.  Often the children didn't have the feeling that they were being listened to or the judge was interested in their situation. Rarely did they get any feedback.

In Belgium Child Focus and its partners hope to come up with proposals soon.  Child Focus's Hilde Demarré points to the situation in the Netherlands where a guardian is appointed for every child and helps them prepare their evidence, accompanies them to court and explains the ruling, while in the UK the court draws up a verdict that is tailor made for the child.