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Missing Children's Hotline – Information & Advice

International child abduction is not a new problem, however, the incidence of such abductions continue to grow with the ease of international travel, the increase in bi-cultural marriages and the rise in the divorce rate.

International child abductions have serious consequences for both the child and the left-behind parent – the child is removed, not only from contact with the other parent, but also from his/her home environment and transplanted to a culture with which he/she may have had no prior ties. International abductors move the child to another state with a different legal system, social structure, culture and often, language.  

These differences, plus the physical difference generally involved, can make locating, recovering and returning internationally abducted children complex and problematic.

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (1980) is the main convention covering child abduction and has been signed by 81 countries, including Ireland.

Ireland is a signatory to both The Hague and Luxembourg Conventions ‌and these conventions have been incorporated into Irish Domestic Law by the Child Abduction and Custody Orders Act 1991 – Article 6 gives the Hague Convention the force of law here. 

Ireland also comes under Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2201 – 2003 of the 27th November 2003 concerning jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgements in matrimonial matters and in matters of parental responsibility.  This Regulation enhances the provisions of the 1980 Hague Convention and relates to children under the age of 18. 

The objects of the convention are clearly set out in Article 1 – which states:

‘(a) To secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed or retained in any contracting state; and (b) to ensure that rights of custody and access under the law of one contracting state are effectively respected in other contracting states.

The Hague Convention seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return.

This is based on the principle that the court of the child’s habitual residence is best-placed to decide any custody disputes.

The Convention is based on the presumption that wrongful removal or retention of the child across international boundaries is not in the interests of the child and that the return of the child to the state of habitual residence will promote his/her best interests by vindicating the right of the child to have contact to both parents and by supporting continuity in the child’s life.

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