Cyprus Mail

MPs call for action over abducted children

THE NAMES of 2,500 children are on the stop list in airports and ports in Cyprus to prevent them from being taken out of the country by one of their parents, MPs heard on Monday, as around 140 child abduction cases have been reported in recent years.

Chairman of the House human rights committee Sophocles Phyttis said 1,004 are the children of Cypriot parents and the rest have one foreign and one Cypriot parent.

In the past six years, there have been some 140 abduction reports, the majority to countries which are parties to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

“In recent years, 93 abductions have been reported in member states for illegal retention and removal and around 50 more, which have never returned,” Phyttis said.

The parents of these children are living a tragedy, Phytiis said, adding that dealing with non-party countries, a job for the foreign ministry, was very difficult.

Speaking after the committee meeting one mother, Chrystalla Panayiotou, told reporters how her two underage boys have been in Damascus, Syria for the past year and expressed concern for their safety due to the ongoing civil strife.

“My husband says the children are his because of their Arabic law,” she said. “I have not seen my kids in a year. The drama we are going through is terrible.”

Another mother, Andri Demetriou, explained how she had sent her six-year-old child to Syria for holiday two years ago, but when it was time to return the father told her she would never see either of them again.

“I have done whatever is humanly possible … the child has already started to forget his mother language,” she said.

MPs asked the foreign ministry to coordinate an effort to improve the laws to prevent child abduction.

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