Parental child abductions from UK 'double in a decade'
The number of parental child abduction cases has more than doubled in the last decade, new figures from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) suggest.
The FCO and charity Reunite say almost two children a day on average are taken out of the UK against a court order or without the consent of one parent.
There were 272 new parental child abduction and international custody cases in 2003-04, and 580 in 2012-13.
The FCO has released what is calls a "hard-hitting" film on the subject.
The film, Caught in the Middle, has been published on YouTube as part of a pre-Christmas awareness campaign to encourage parents to consider the "lasting damage" such abductions can do to children and families.
Reunite said it had already dealt with 447 new cases, involving a total of 616 children, in 2013 - with noticeable spikes after the Christmas and summer holidays.
Foreign Office minister Mark Simmonds said he was "very concerned" at the increasing number of abductions, and said parents should look for "warning signs" that their partner might take a child.
"Once children are taken overseas it can be extremely difficult to secure their return to the UK," he said.
"Many parents are not aware that by adducting their child, they may be committing a crime."
The FCO said cases can take up to 10 years to resolve, and sometimes the child may never be returned.
Reunite chief executive Alison Shalaby said holidays were a "stressful time" for families, especially if the parents' relationship has "broken down".
"However, there is help available if you think that your partner may be considering abducting your children," she said.
"Last year we helped to prevent 412 cases involving 586 children which demonstrates something can be done to prevent it from happening to you."
Ms Shalaby said parental abductions were not "faith or country specific".
The FCO said it was "much harder" to get children back from countries which had not signed the 1980 Hague Convention, an international agreement on the issue.
The most common Hague Convention countries for parental abductions from the UK in 2012/13 were the USA (32), Poland (29) and the Irish Republic (28), while the top non-Hague countries were Pakistan (35), Thailand (17) and India (16).
The FCO said that - "contrary to popular opinion" - about 70% of abducting parents were mothers.