Child abductions and the withholding of access of a child by one or the other parent is on the increase Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Monday.
According to Europol data, more than 50 incidents of abduction and/or withholding a child from a parent were recorded in Cyprus during the past two years.
Specifically, 24 cases were recorded in 2015, while in 2016 the number reached 29 cases of which 16 were actual abductions.
Nicolaou, who was speaking before the House human rights committee said that a protocol had been prepared for the prevention and management of such cases, which is expected to be tabled to the cabinet by his ministry before the end of July.
“These incidents are increasing due to the rise in marriages between Cypriots and EU nationals or with third-country nationals,” he said.
He also said the government had assessed the issue of withholding children and that the 2015 legislation had been amended to criminalise these actions.
Nicolaou also denied allegations that his ministry did not carry out appropriate actions for the prevention and combating of child abductions.
When asked by MPs about the case of Marie-Eleni Grimsrud, 4, who was abducted outside her kindergarten by masked men hired by her Norwegian father on April 27, Nicolaou refrained from commenting other than to say: “This is a very sensitive issue in which all actions were taken in every direction.”
There’s been no trace of the little girl.
House committee chairwoman Stella Kyriakidou, pointed out the importance of the protocol. “There is a text which provides that in the case of an abduction, a police team will immediately be assembled to investigate the particular case, as well as a specialised negotiating team.”
MPs heard that when a child abduction occurs, the first 24 hours are the most crucial. The protocol will determine how checks will be conducted at the crossing points, as well as how Europol and Interpol be informed.
“An important detail is that in most cases where children were returned to their families after an abduction, this did not happen through court proceedings, but through negotiations,” Kyriakidou added.