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Parental child abduction: Indian case-load second largest in the US

Bindu Philips of New Jersey flew with her twin boys and her then-husband Sunil Jacobs to India in December 2008 on what was supposed to be a family vacation. She hasn't seen them since. In India, she told the media, she was abused by Jacobs and family, and then separated from her sons. She was forced to return to the U.S. empty-handed.

New Delhi, Aug 23 (IANS) The number of cases of inter-country parental child abduction related to Indians in the US is the second highest next only to Mexico, a senior US government official said here on Tuesday.

“We are handling more than 1,000 cases of inter-country parental child abduction,” Michele Bond, US Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, said during a media interaction here.

“At this time, our case-load with India is the second largest that we have after Mexico,” she said.

Inter-country parental child abduction is the situation that arises when one parent takes a child to a foreign country and keeps him or her there with the hope that the parent will be able to establish custody of that child and prevent the other parent from having access or being able to share custody.

Bond said that Mexico was the US’s immediate neighbor and hence it was easy to take a child across the border while it was not so easy to travel to India.

“There are approximately 80 (Indian) family cases involved and more than 90 children,” she said.

Stating that children were vulnerable and were unable to protect themselves, she said: “We recognise that India shares those concerns and this has been highlighted in the joint statement that was released during Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi’s visit to the United States in June.”

In the joint statement issued after Modi’s meeting with US President Barack Obama, one of the points stated that “the leaders intend to renew efforts to intensify dialogue to address issues affecting the citizens of both countries that arise due to differences in the approaches of legal systems, including issues relating to cross-country marriage, divorce and child custody”.

Bond stated that the US was among the 94 countries that were members of the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction or Hague Abduction Convention for short.

The Convention facilitates the prompt return of abducted children to their country of habitual residence and helps deter international parental child abduction.

“We hope that India will make the decision to accede also to that Convention,” Bond said.

She said that under the Convention, the court in the child’s country of habitual residence would take the decisions about custody and visitation rights among other issues.

“We applaud the Indian government for recently publishing for comment implementing legislation for the Hague Abduction Convention,” the US official said.

“We encourage India to continue progress to its accession because we genuinely believe that this is a significant issue for this country.”

She said that this problem was likely to grow as there was an increasing number of Indians living outside the country.

“We also have a handful of cases of children who have been abducted from India to the United States,” Bond said.

“We are working to help those parents to go to court and request the return of their children to India.”

Bond came to India to attend the annual bilateral consular dialogue that was held here on Monday during which issues like facilitating tourism and business and other travel between the two countries, visa assessing, protection of US citizens in India, transparent international adoption, and preventing international parental child abduction cases were discussed.

While she led the US delegation, P. Kumaran, Joint Secretary (Consular, Passport, Visa) in the Ministry of External Affairs, headed the Indian side.

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