Millions of British and European nationals live in the Middle East and many more Middle Easterners live in Britain and Europe. As political alliances strengthen, so do business partnerships, friendships and romantic relationships but many of them end in divorce and where there are children involved, they are at risk of abduction.
“It’s all too common a story”, says Radha Stirling, founder of Due Process International and the Gulf in Justice Podcast. “Over the past decade, we have seen a number of distraught mothers and fathers who have suffered the ultimate loss, that of a child. Our Gulf allies are not signatories to the Hague Convention against international child abduction and do not recognise European custody orders. This gives the green light to a parent to violate local European laws, abduct their child and seek refuge in the Middle East, depriving the child of one parent”.
Maud Quinault has been left fighting for her now 6 year old son Fahad-Louis after his father, Omani national Amur al-Maamari, violated a French court order. “He said he was taking our son to Disneyland and I believed him”, Maud told Due Process International. “I found out he took our son to Madrid where he obtained an emergency travel document and fled to Oman. I haven’t seen my son since”.
The last time Maud Quinault spoke by telephone to her five-year-old son, Fahad-Louis, she said he was crying and did not want to be with his dad. “Mummy, please come and get me,” the little boy said.
Amur al-Maamari was listed on Interpol but it will only affect him if he leaves the Gulf. Interpol has no power of arrest and Oman will not extradite him to France since he has not broken any local laws. “If Oman was a signatory to the Hague convention, he would have been required to return Fahad-Louis to France”, explained Stirling. “This happens all too often. We have mutual enforcement treaties on commercial disputes and extraditions, but no treaties on child abduction where the victim is an innocent and vulnerable young being.
“What’s worse is that the abducting party will usually open a fake criminal case against their former spouse to ensure they will be arrested on arrival if they try to visit.”
British MP candidate Afsana Alachaux has been campaigning for mothers who have lost children to Gulf injustice for a number of years.
Sadly, Ms Stirling has had to advise a number of women that they may not be able to see their children again until they are older. “Sometimes, we have been able to mediate a private solution amongst parents and this is the best outcome, but when divorce is fresh, it’s challenging to get both parties to take the emotion out of matters and prioritise the children. There are also some seriously narcissistic and abusive people out there who take a child just to punish their former partner. This is why we need Gulf nations to reflect the Hague convention in their local laws and we are seeking UK and EU parliamentary support to discuss diplomatic options with our Gulf partners.
“With a Treaty in place, international child abduction rates will go down and children like Fahad-Louis will be spared the trauma of losing their mother or father”.