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New figures reveal that the number of parental child abduction cases dealt with by the Foreign Office has risen by 88% in under a decade.
In the last year alone the Foreign Office's Child Abduction Section fielded an average of four calls per day to its specialist advice line, more than half of which were new cases .
The Foreign Office says that that the statistics could be just the tip of the iceberg because many cases go unreported as parents seek custody of their children through foreign courts.
Research commissioned by the Foreign Office shows that half the UK population believes the government can intervene to order the return of a child to the UK if he or she has been abducted by a parent. However, the reality is that whilst help is available, parental child abduction cases can take years to resolve.
It is also much harder to return a child from a country that has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention, an international agreement between certain countries which aims to ensure the return of a child who has been abducted by a parent.
Despite parental child abduction being against the law, a quarter (24%) of people do not think, or are unaware, that it's a crime for a parent to take their child overseas without the consent of others with parental responsibility.
When asked which parent they thought was more likely to abduct a child, three quarters (74%) of people thought it was fathers. Yet according to statistics from the Reunite International Child Abduction Centre, 70% of the charity's cases concern mothers taking the child.
Commenting, Alison Shalaby, Chief Executive of Reunite, said: "It is important to remember that parental child abduction is not faith or country specific. Seventy one percent of the UK public thought that parents most commonly abduct their children to the Middle East, India and Pakistan but it can happen to anyone, from any background. Countries where children are abducted to can range from Australia, to France, to Thailand.
"We have seen a 20% increase in calls made to our helpline in the first half of 2012 compared to 2011 and a 67% increase in the number of children who have been abducted by a parent to a non-Hague country between 2001 and 2011.
"This issue is not going away and with a 47% increase in the number of child abduction cases Reunite has worked on between 2001 and 2011, we are urging parents to think twice before they abduct their child or seek help if they think their child is at risk."
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