A Frenchman fighting to see his children who were taken by their mother without his consent has garnered international attention after staging a hunger strike for over two weeks near the Olympic stadium in Tokyo.
Vincent Fichot has not seen his two children since his Japanese wife allegedly left their home with them in 2018, and his hunger strike has even triggered talks between French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Parental abductions are relatively common in Japan and it’s likely that this is because joint custody of children in cases of divorce is not a legal option over there.
However, this issue is not foreign to our tiny island.
Despite Malta’s divorce laws allowing for the possibility of joint custody, the country still suffers from this very issue; the parental abduction of children.
Just last year, a seven-year-old girl who was supposed to be under state care was abducted by her birth mother from a foster home that had been caring for the young girl since she was just six months old.
Foster mother Christine* spoke to Lovin Malta about the heartbreaking experience.
She explained that Christine and the girl’s mother had a good relationship and she was able to see her daughter every weekend unsupervised.
But on one fateful Sunday in 2020, the young girl never returned home.
Investigations found that the biological mother used fake passports to flee the country with the seven-year-old.
Another case saw an 18-year-old mother leave Malta with her one-year-old son in mid-December of 2019 without the father’s consent.
Leigha Collins fled to Scotland with her two-year-old son Hayes and his older brother Alfie.
Collins argued that Hayes’ father, Kyle Borg, was an avid drug user and trafficker who displayed “erratic behaviour”. For this reason, Collins was “terrified” and thus decided to leave the island.
Borg, however, posited that Collins was negligent and even missed vaccination appointments for the young boys despite them being free of charge.
According to Borg, Collins also completely relied on his income, both for herself and the children.
Collins was eventually ordered to return to Malta with the children.
Another case, that was won by a Maltese father, saw a Norwegian mother file for the abduction of the pair’s child.
The father had initially moved to Norway upon discovering that the woman was pregnant.
However, due to the risks of having their child taken into foster care, the pair decided to move to Malta and they intended to establish their residence here.
Their relationship then ended and the father was awarded full care and custody.
However, she filed for abduction and due to mental health reasons and the fact that she had initially consented to this travel, the court ultimately decided that this did not ensue.
This has nonetheless become an important issue in Malta. Children are being unlawfully taken from the island and separated from one or both of their primary caregivers.
It is a tragic reality that needs more awareness and prevention with in-depth psychiatric evaluations of parents experiencing custody battles and more thorough passport checks at the airport.
What do you think should be done to prevent such abductions?