The Child Focus Foundation registered a total of 257 child victims of international kidnapping by a parent last year as against 217 in 2016, the foundation stated in its latest report, released on Tuesday. This increase is a cause for concern, especially since the resolution rate is particularly low: just about one-third of such cases are resolved, the Foundation reported.
The number of children abducted by a parent in an international context had been on the decline until 2016, but the trend was reversed last year. Child Focus deals with the illegal transfer or non-return of minors in both Belgium and the destination country. Of the 471 children involved in such cases last year, more than half were under the age of six years.
The abductions are done mostly by mothers, but the proportion of fathers carrying them out continues to climb, shooting up from 27% in 2015 to 40% in 2017, Child Focus noted.
The organization processed 1,823 cases of child disappearances in 2017, the highest number since 2010. Most of the cases (1,151) had to do with runaways.
The number of runaways has been stable, but Child Focus noted a doubling of preventive calls from children in distress or from parents fearing a child might run away (36 cases). “That’s good news,” according to Heidi De Pauw, director-general of the Foundation, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of its founding in late March. Child Focus can then give advice and, if necessary, refer the caller to specialized assistance services before the young person commits the act.
Two of the abductions committed in 2017 were criminal: that of Jihane, a six-year-old girl kidnapped from the Abattoirs Market in Anderlecht and later found by police, and that of an adult, who was subsequently murdered.
The full report can be accessed online at the childfocus.be site.