If we want to prevent the kidnapping of children like Atiya, we must tighten UK border controls

How was a father able to take a three year-old from Britain to Lahore unhindered? And why are UK lawyers so resigned to a continued rise in cross-border abductions?

Share
Fact File
  • 88% Rise in cross-border abductions in the last 10 years

Over the holiday, the airwaves were dominated for a day by a good news story. A six-year-old girl, Atiya Anjum-Wilkinson, was returned to her British mother after being taken illegally to Pakistan by her father three years before. The mother dissolved into joyous tears on camera and talked of massive kisses and cuddles. The happy outcome headed not just “tabloid” TV, but the BBC News at Ten.

And this did indeed seem to be a case where the rights and the wrongs were clear, unlike that of the Scottish 12-year-old, Molly Campbell, who chose to live with her father in Pakistan and recently returned to the UK. It was unusual, too, in the readiness of the courts to act. Atiya’s father, it turned out, was serving his fourth term in a British prison for refusing to divulge the child’s whereabouts.

In all the publicity given to this case, though, one question was not asked, let alone answered: how was Razwan Anjum able to take a three-year-old from Britain to Lahore unhindered? And there is another: why were UK lawyers commenting on this case so resigned to the likelihood that such cross-border abductions will continue to rise, as they have done by 88 per cent in the past 10 years?

Now it may be that Atiya was the victim of some complex stratagem involving other relatives or transit countries. But, as the law stands, British airport security officials – in the regrettable absence of formal exit checks – are entitled to ask an adult taking a child out of the country for proof that he or she has the permission of the other parent, and in the case of grandparents or unrelated adults, the permission of the parents. In theory, notarised letters are required, as they are in many other countries.

The difference between Britain and, say Italy – where my sister used to have to produce a notarised document to bring her young sons to the UK – is that almost no one seems ever to be challenged, let alone asked for a piece of paper. And while it may be that there are deemed to be just too many child travellers to make checks feasible, it also suggests a lack of official curiosity that approaches irresponsibility.

Remember Liam Corcoran, the 11-year-old who flew from Manchester to Rome without passport, ticket or boarding pass by attaching himself to other families? Supposedly, that prompted a tightening of procedures. But similar laxness seems to apply to children entering the country unaccompanied or with adults who are not their parents. Remember Victoria Climbié, beaten to death by the relative who was supposed to send her to school? Remember the children we hear of from time to time abandoned at the airport, only to be “claimed” by someone else? DNA testing is judged too intrusive. Why?

The sad truth is that the UK does not use even the safeguards it has to prevent the abduction and trafficking of children. And the reason, I would hazard, is not that we regard children as “special”, but that we do not value them enough.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Database Developer (SSIS, TSQL, Microsoft SQL) London Finance

£35000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global global asset management ...

Web Developer/UI Developer (HTML5, CSS3,Jquery) London

£55000 - £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

JavaScript Developer (C++ / C# / HTML, Java Angular.js) London

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A world leading business intellig...

C# Web Developer (C#, MS Dynamics CRM, SQL, SQl Server) London

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Theresa May  

Democracy and the police: a system in crisis

Nigel Morris
 

Mary Beard has taught us all a lesson in how to deal with online bullies

Louise Scodie
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone