International child abduction persists
Though their stories didn’t make headlines, there have been at least 10 cases of international child abduction in The Bahamas so far this year, revealed legal counsel in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Odecca Gibson yesterday.
A child is considered a victim of international abduction in The Bahamas when a foreigner comes to the country and attempts to prevent another parent from having access to that child.
Gibson noted that the number of cases of international child abduction in The Bahamas is quite small when compared to those in larger countries like Mexico and the United States.
However, she pointed out that there is still a need to have a process in place to address such matters.
“The Bahamas agreed (when it signed on to an international convention) that it would use all of its resources to return those children to the countries where they originally came from,” she said. “It works both ways[among]countries who are parties of the convention.”
She added, “If a foreigner comes to The Bahamas in an attempt to prevent another parent from having access to the child, an application can be made to this ministry and this ministry will… commence proceedings in order to have the child returned to the United States.”
“From The Bahamas we would do the same thing. We would send an application to the other country who may be involved and ask them to assist us in having the child returned to The Bahamas.”
The Bahamas is one of approximately 70 countries that are party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (HCCH).
The convention is a multilateral treaty that 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.
However, The Bahamas cannot facilitate the removal or return of minors, from or to many countries around the world, as the convention only operates between the countries that are parties to it, and ceases to apply when a child turns 16-years-old.
Gibson said that in most cases the parent who takes the child is usually of the view that what they are doing is correct.
She added that child abduction cases involving countries that are not members of the HCCH can be challenging. She gave Jamaica as an example, which despite it’s close proximity to The Bahamas, is not party to the convention, which makes many situations complicated.
“Incidents involving children who have one Jamaican parent and one Bahamian parent and the Jamaican parent decides… to leave The Bahamas with the child and go to Jamaica, at that point we can only send a polite letter to their Ministry of Foreign Affairs asking for assistance,”she said.
“But they do not have to assist us if they choose not to.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs can be contacted at 322-2673, which is a 24-hour hotline that can assist with international child abduction cases.