JAMAICA is now better placed to register cases of parental child abductions each year, as the country is now party to the 1980 Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
“I have heard from the authorities that they know about cases, [but] as far as I know there are no statistics. The Child Development Agency (CDA) will start registering the cases from now on, so by the end of the year you’ll have the first data of cases tried under the convention,” said Ignacio Goicoechea, representative for the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, Permanent Bureau of Hague Conference on Private International Law.
He was speaking last week in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.
According to Goicoechea, there are cases in existence but it will take a while for people to realise that they have a place to go now in order to resolve their cases in a swift and efficient manner.
“In a population like Jamaica, it can be estimated that you’ll have a couple of tens every year (including both incoming and outgoing), but most probably less than 100. The tendency in the world is that these cases will be increasing slowly. However, the mere awareness that the convention is in place should also have a deterrent effect for many cases,” he added.
Regionally, Goicoechea said the parental child abductions are quite common but as it relates to numbers, they are not massive.
“The Latin American and Caribbean region is characterised because many of the nationals here move to other jurisdictions to work or study. It is quite common that the region would have cases, mostly ongoing cases, to get these children back from other jurisdictions. These are not massive cases in terms of number, but are very delicate and difficult cases to address.
“They are delicate because the left behind parent is often in a deep crisis seeking for his or her child, and demands immediate attention. That’s what the convention provides — an urgent mechanism to get children back to allow the jurisdiction of the habitual residence of this child to address the case, and to decide in the best interest of the child whether he or she should stay with the mother or father or [be] brought up in Jamaica or the other country. It is very important to distinguish the custody case from the child abduction case, which is the situation which the convention addresses,” Goicoechea explained.
The convention, he said, is expected to ease the often long, expensive, and limited success process in Jamaica and elsewhere of seeking the return of these children.
“Jamaica in joining this convention on International Child Abduction, provides a powerful tool for those individuals that are dealing with child abduction situations and would have an easy way of getting their children back to Jamaica if they are taken out of the country — in breach of custody rights of the other parent,” he said.
Goicoechea added that individuals can go directly to the central authority — which in Jamaica’s case is the CDA — which would manage the case, provide the individual with a form to fill in, and send the application to the foreign central authority where the Jamaican resident has been taken, in order to have the case duly addressed.
He also pointed out that the Convention works both ways as it helps foreign residents whose children have been taken to Jamaica to file before the Jamaican court, through the CDA, after which a decision on the return of this child to residence in the foreign country would be determined.
The Hague Convention aims to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international borders by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return.