More Aussie Kids Embroiled In International Child Abductions
From the 60 Minutes Lebanon 'child recovery' debacle, to this week's news the AFP allegedly uncovered a child abduction ring -- just how big is this problem in Australia?
Figures from the Attorney-General's department show a 76 percent increase in the amount of children affected by international abductions in the four years to 2017-2018.
In a statement to ten daily, an AGD spokesperson said the number of applications for government help when a child has been abducted and taken overseas, has remained stable, but the number of siblings involved has increased.
However, these figures aren't an accurate measure of the magnitude of the issue.
The cases only reflect kids who've been taken to countries that are signatories to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Parental Child Abduction (the Hague Convention).
The Hague Convention is in force between Australia and 83 other countries -- most of which are western countries.
'Child recovery specialist' Col Chapman says the real number is much higher than that.
"For somewhere like India, there is nothing the Australian government can really do if there child is abducted and taken there," he said
He estimates there are four children kidnapped to countries who aren't Hague signatories for every one that is reported to the Australian government.
"The Hague statistics don’t truly represent the actual number of child abductions," he told ten daily.
Champan has spent more than two decades working with parents whose kids have been taken abroad without their consent -- usually by a former partner, sometimes a grandparent.
His job -- which he insists is 'legal and totally above board' -- is to step in and bring children back to Australia when the government can't.
"There is often a lot of mental health issues involved. Usually for fathers this kind of action come from jealousy, control and pride. For mothers it's more likely to be spite or fears for safety," he said.
He says the majority of his clients are men, but historically it was women.
"The wives in the cases I am involved in often come from Asia, particularly south-east Asia like China and Vietnam, and the men are from the Middle East."
The AGD told ten daily, "if the child has been abducted to Egypt or Lebanon, we have bilateral agreements with these countries which may be used."
But Chapman says he has had plenty of clients from those two countries, which suggests "they don't really have power to do much."
He says the fee for his work depends on the country and the complexity of the politics and geography. For somewhere like Vietnam it costs around $40,000 (without travel costs) but the Middle East usually starts at around $120,000.
"We fly to the country and often have the parent with us, it's a long process that involves surveillance and we wait for a safe time to approach the child and take them back, " he said.
The child bounty hunter has around a dozen live cases and the longest one has been running 11 years for an Australian child that was taken to Mexico.
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