Child abduction is a “growing problem” with the number of reported cases up by 81 per cent over the last nine years, ministers warned today.
Foreign Office officials were involved in 512 new abduction and international custody cases in 2011/12 and were taking around four calls a day when existing cases were taken into account.
But the true number could be much higher because many case go unreported as parents seek custody of their children through foreign courts or through private family mediation, according to the government.
Foreign Office Minister Mark Simmonds released the figures to mark International Missing Children's Day.
He said "Today is an opportunity to raise public awareness of children who have gone missing or been abducted within the UK and overseas. Children go missing in a wide range of circumstances and in all cases we are eager to find them and return them to their homes and families.
"This includes when children are abducted overseas by one of their own parents. These missing children are often overlooked but we must remember that parental child abduction also has a devastating impact on children, destroying their relationship with both parents and isolating them from their home.
"This is a growing problem. Over the last 9 years we have seen an 81 per cent increase in the number of new cases. In 2003/4 the FCO worked on cases in 51 countries; that figure has now risen to 84. This shows just how widespread the problem has become, affecting people from all parts of the world.
"We will continue to do all we can to provide advice and support to families dealing with international parental child abduction. But these cases are extremely difficult to resolve and the reality is that whilst help is available, parental child abduction cases can take years to resolve.
"As we mark International Missing Children's Day, we should think not just of those who are missing or abducted, but of how we can work to make sure abductions stop once and for all. No differences between parents should be worth the emotional distress of a child wrenched from his or her home."