Daisy Organ, head of the Child Abduction Section at the FCO, has told Daybreak that for parents whose children have been abducted to countries that are not members of the Hague Convention "face a long and distressing process to get them back."
Nicky Hewitt, who was abducted and taken to Australia by her father when she was 12 years old, has told Daybreak that she had felt "completely betrayed" by both her parents.
She said: "I was completely alone and isolated. We were being used as playing pieces. That then had a massive impact on me, both in the short and long term."
– Alison Shalaby, chief executive of Reunite
It can happen to anyone, from any background. Countries where children are abducted to can range from Australia, to France, to Thailand.
We have seen a 206% increase in the number of children who have been abducted by a parent to a non-Hague country between 2001 and 2011.
- Cases of parental child abduction have risen 88% in just under a decade (2003-2012), the FCO have said.
- 24% of Britons are unaware parental child abduction is a crime.
- The FCO's child abduction section received an average of four calls a day between October 2011 and September 2012.
- The FCO also pointed out that parents may suffer severe financial difficulties as they fight for custody of their child through foreign courts.
- Further illustrating public misunderstanding, nearly three quarters of those surveyed (74%) thought fathers were more likely to abduct children.
- But, according to statistics from the Reunite International Child Abduction Centre, 70% of the charity's cases concern mothers taking the child.
- There are skewed opinions over where children were taken - 71% thought parents most commonly abduct their children to the Middle East, India or Pakistan.
– Daisy Organ, head of the FCO's child abduction section
The increase in parental child abduction cases is a major cause for concern, particularly in the lead-up to the school holidays; we know that before or during school holidays is one of the most common times for a child to be abducted.
We hope that this campaign will help inform and educate the UK public and encourage parents thinking of abducting their child to think twice before they cause significant distress to themselves and their family.
Public understanding of child abduction is low, according to research commissioned by the FCO.
Half the UK population thinks the Government can intervene to ensure an abducted child is returned home, the research carried out by Censuswide showed.
But the reality is that, while help is available, parental child abduction cases can take years to resolve and there is a strong possibility that the child may never be returned, the FCO said.
It is also much harder to return a child from a country that has not signed the 1980 Hague Convention.
The 1980 Hague Convention is an agreement between certain countries which aims to ensure the return of an abducted child to the country where he or she normally lives.
All cases that come under the Hague Convention are dealt with by the Central Authorities in the UK.
To find out which countries are part of this Convention, visit the Hague Conference Website.
If a child has been taken to a country that has not signed the Hague Convention parents may need to apply for custody and permission to bring their child back to the UK through the courts of that country.
In England and Wales and Northern Ireland Parental Child Abduction may be a criminal offence where a child (under 16 years old) is taken out of the UK without either consent of another person who has parental responsibility, or permission from the courts.
In Scotland, abduction may only be considered a criminal offence where the courts have issued an order concerning custody of the child or their removal from the UK, but a parent may still have rights under civil law.
Cases of parental child abduction have risen 88% in just under a decade (2003-2012), Foreign Office (FCO) figures showed today.
It is against the law for a parent to take a child overseas without permission from others with parental responsibility, but nearly a quarter of Britons (24%) are unaware it is a crime, the figures showed.
The FCO's child abduction section received an average of four calls a day between October 2011 and September 2012, according to the figures.