East Ham MP highlights parental child abduction case

East Ham MP Stephen Timms has raised the issue of parental child abduction in the Commons by highlighting the case of one of his constituents.

Jonathan Hunt has not seen his daughter Lydia for three-and-a-half years, but he has left her bedroom untouched.

The East Ham resident met his wife Irma, from Mexico, while she was working as a nanny in London.

They got married in May 2003 and their daughter Lydia was born three years later.

When they travelled to Mexico for a family holiday in 2008, Mr Hunt did not know it would be the last time he saw his then 18-month-old daughter.

He flew home first to resume his job in London and Irma and Lydia were due to follow.

Weeks later he received a call from his wife to say she was not happy in the relationship and that she and Lydia would not be returning.

Hague Convention

"Any loving parent would realise once this happens to you you've got two options, you can go under or you can fight. I've chosen to fight," he said.

Within days Mr Hunt filed a request for the Mexican authorities to return Lydia under the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Mexico and the UK are two of the 87 states which have signed up to this agreement.

Under the treaty, abducted children should be returned to their home country within six weeks for a decision to then be reached through its courts, but it is an agreement which can be difficult to implement.

Image caption Jonathan Hunt last saw his daughter Lydia in August 2008

Anne-Marie Hutchinson, chairwoman of the board of trustees for Reunite International, said: "The problem with the Hague Convention is that there is no, as it were, Hague Court, that can make countries comply with not only the law but the procedure, and make them get on with cases quickly and procedurally and ensure fairness is done."

A case like Mr Hunt's, therefore, is dependent on the Mexican legal system.

So far Mr Hunt has spent nearly £85,000 in legal fees searching for Lydia.

East Ham MP Stephen Timms, who has been helping Mr Hunt with his case, raised the issue in the final parliamentary debate of the year and called for the government to intervene.

Mr Timms, who had also raised the issue in the Commons in October, said: "It's only the Mexican government that can resolve this now.

"And I want the British government to do everything it can to press the Mexican government to do what they are committed to do under the Hague Convention."

The number of children abducted by one of their parents and taken overseas is increasing in London, according to the charity Reunite International.

It said there were 52 parental abductions from the capital in this year alone.

'Can't give up'

The Foreign Office handled 643 cases of international parental child abduction in 2010 to both Hague and non-Hague Convention countries - a 10% rise in the number of cases since the previous year.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: "We are aware of the case of Lydia Hunt and have provided consular assistance to her father, Jonathan, from the outset. We are committed to continuing to support Mr Hunt."

In spite of the obstacles he faces, Mr Hunt refuses to give up and is waiting for another hearing in Mexico in March 2012.

"I can't drop it. I physically am unable to do it," he said.

"I don't want to give up on my daughter until a solution is resolved and she's brought back."

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