“The Brussels Diary with Yana Toom”: International Child Abduction in Japan


It is generally regarded that Brussels deals exclusively with global issues: the Green Deal, the EU budget, the split in NATO... However, this is not so. Many topics simply do not receive coverage in the news. And one of them is the abduction of children at international level. This is about countries that try to deprive children of their parents.

Let us consider the Falynskov family from Narva, whose problem was handled by my Constituency Office. For seven months, the Falynskovs contended with the social services of Scotland, which threatened to deprive their child, and won.

Last Thursday, the fate of Kristīne Misāne, a citizen of Latvia, was decided, as Denmark was looking to deport her to Africa. The South African authorities included Misāne in their list of wanted persons, accusing her of abducting a child citizen of theirs. As a result, she was extradited to Latvia, which instituted fake criminal proceedings – otherwise, she would have been in danger of being incarcerated in an African prison. Kristīne’s child stays in Latvia and is afraid of travelling abroad.

Each case is individual, for sure. And each country protects its own. But some of them are way out of line. There is still more a lot of work to be done on this within Europe. In 2016, shortly after the release of the Falynskov’s son, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the rights of parents and children in regard to social services in the EU Member States.

At the same time, the Petition Committee assigned priority to the topic of the forced removal of children. Any citizen and permanent resident of the EU can apply to this Committee.

I have been working in the Petition Committee for the sixth year, now as Deputy Chair - it’s high time I began to get used to it. But whenever a next case is heard about the abduction of children, to be honest, I just feel queasy.

Last Wednesday, for example. We discussed four petitions - two from Italians, one from a German and one from a Frenchman. Everyone has the same story: if the mother of the child is a Japanese citizen, and the father is an EU citizen, and they divorce, there is simply no chance that the father will see the child. Never. In the Land of the Rising Sun, they do not know the concept of “joint custody”. The mother will always become the guardian of the child, and the foreign father has no rights at all. Frequently, apart from not seeing the child, he does not even know his or her location. There are hundreds, or even thousands, of such cases.

This phenomenon has an exact legal name - “International Child Abduction”. Why the Japanese do this - God only knows. Japan ratified the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction in 2014, but virtually nothing has changed.

And no one can do anything. There is hardly any place where desperate fathers have not recourse to! For the last two years alone, French President Macron, German Chancellor Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Conte have personally raised the issue with the Japanese Prime Minister. The issue was discussed at the UN Human Rights Council. The reaction of Japan? Zero attention, a lot of contempt. And towards America, by the way, too.

In this composition of the European Parliament, the position of coordinator for the rights of the child was established. My Polish colleague Ewa Kopacz holds this position. And the Committee meeting decided stoutly: no matter what economic interests connect us with Japan, the Parliament will not allow the EU to turn a blind eye to the abduction of children. I will discuss further steps in this direction in one of the future issues of the diary.

In the meantime, dear men, if you are in danger of becoming a father in Japan, consider the risks, please, before you become fathers with Japanese mothers.

See you next week!