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New Jersey Rep Seeks To End Japanese Child Abduction Problem

New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith is pushing to end a growing child abduction problem for Japanese-American families. Japan is not a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Prevention of Child Abduction and child abduction to the country has increased along with the increase of international marriages and divorces.

In many cases, a mother who is a Japanese national will abduct her children to Japan after losing a child custody dispute with her U.S. husband. These abductions happen even if the father has custody of the child in both countries and such abductions leave a father with no recourse to regain custody of his children. “It is our understanding that no U.S. citizen child abducted to Japan has been returned to the United States,” a U.S. embassy official in Tokyo told TIME Magazine.

Chris Smith hopes to change the pattern of abductions. The New Jersey Republican chairs a subcommittee that oversees human rights issues and wants to establish an Office of International Child Abductions within the U.S. State department, TIME Magazine reports. The office would take on abduction cases and recommend sanctions against uncooperative nations.

The abduction trend is becoming so pronounced that many countries ban Japanese mothers who live abroad from taking children to Japan for any purpose. This makes it hard for women who have no intention of abducting their children to bring the children to Japan on family trips to visit relatives.

One woman said that she abducted her son from the U.S. to Japan to prevent him from being abused by his father. She said that there were no physical signs of the abuse so she abducted her son because she feared that she could not prove the abuse in court, “I don’t know what the answer is,” she said, “but we need to find a solution that’s in the best interest of the child.”

Source: TIME Magazine, “How Did Japan Become a Haven for Child Abductions?” Lucy Birmingham, 3/7/11