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Free the kids trapped in Cyprus

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There is a fine line between the international family law and the human right to freedom of movement. The freedom of movement of parents may be limited by custody orders especially in terms of relocation.


However, the situation is Cyprus is not a matter of family law but is a violation of basic human rights both of the parents and the children given extremely opportunist use of “non exit alerts” in the passports of the children.

Short version:
Cyprus gives the parents possibility to report “danger of possibility of parental abduction” what results in placing an alert on child's passport so the child will be detained in the airport.
This very strong protective mechanism is disproportionately easy and inexpensive to place as the cost is around 200 euros while on the other hand is extremely difficult, expensive and with no clear criteria of defense to wave it. This disproportion leads to abuse and control of one part by the other.
As the result, it makes extremely difficult to the other parent to take the child abroad for holidays, medical reasons, to visit family abroad and so on.
The legal burden to travel with the child that is on stop list is unbearable. In meantime the parental abductions in Cyprus continue as the law proved to be draconian yet inefficient to prevent the cases of horrific parental abductions. The law does not work and leaves our children with disastrous consequences.

 
Let's expose the facts with more details:


1) Lack of proportionality
In every case consent of both parents or court order giving one parent the right to travel with the child is needed for the child to travel abroad.
However, Cyprus goes much further as it gives the parents possibility to report “danger of possibility of parental abduction” what results in placing an alert on child's passport so the child will be detained in the airport.
This very strong protective mechanism is disproportionately easy and inexpensive to place as the cost is around 200 euros while on the other hand is extremely difficult, expensive and with no clear criteria of defense to wave it.
As the result, it makes extremely difficult to the other parent to take the child abroad for holidays, medical reasons, to visit family abroad and so on.
The legal burden to travel with the child that is on stop list is unbearable.
There are two ways to do so. You can go to the court each and every time to request “temporary waving of stop list alert”. The cost is around 1000 euros per travel including legal fees, stamps, translations so it is usually more than is spent on the holidays itself. The process is also not standardized, long and the burden is so much that it is simply impossible to go through it each and every time separately.
Alternatively, you can object the stop list order. In this case it will take years of legal procedures and many thousands of euros with no clear criteria of defense. How can you prove that you have no intention to abduct the child?


2) Stop list increases the chances of parental abduction through illegal exit or applications to the court for allowance to relocate or have full custody


While the burden to travel with the child abroad for holidays is too much to handle, the illegal exit of the island through the North is very easy as there is any control there. It can in some cases lead a desperate and home sick parent to decision to abduct the child just because the honest intents to travel legally for holidays failed due to the cost and burden of bureaucratic procedures.
On the other hand, the system is so painful to the parent who has residential care of the child (as it makes in practice him to be unable to travel as is not able to travel with the child but also can't leave the child behind) that it pushes him toward making application for relocation allowance.
Myself I initially did not think about going back to the home country after divorce but the stop list made my life in Cyprus so unbearable that if I make an expensive and complicated procedure to delete my daughter from stop list I will do it together with relocation request.
It is impossible to go through such an expensive and long legal process and stay in Cyprus when the other parent can reverse the situation and place the kid on stop list again just for 200 euros and in few days. I would not like to be in the same position again just 30 000 euros behind in legal fees and live with permanent fear that if I make something that will upset my controlling ex partner he will have such great power over me to punish me again with placing the child OVER on stop list in no time.

3) The children are placed on stop list very long term (until they are 18 years old) although stop list is meant to be a temporary, exceptional, used in emergency situations, protective measure. Such long term use of alerts on stop list can lead to the irreversible damage for both children and parents


The alerts regarding children shall be issued according to the scope of the Shengen Information System in two cases:
a) during court proceedings regarding custody of the child, Chapter VII “Alerts on persons sought to assist with judicial procedures”
b) if the child is actually missing that can be due to several reasons including reported parental abduction “Chapter VI Alerts on Missing Persons” (not due to perceived danger of parental abduction that is very subjective)
c) in general the maximum time for retention of alerts in the system is 3 years BUT IT IS ENCOURGAED BY EUROPEAN COMMISSION TO HAVE SHORTER PERIODS OF REVISION. After this time the alert should be automatically erased if there is no revision of the case and new court order (Article 44 Retention period of alerts on persons)
Cyprus however keep the children on stop list that are having ALREADY final custody order, they are not abducted and the time of retention of alert is unlimited and is not revised (expires only when the child reaches age of majority)
It leads to the situation that children lose their bonds with country of origin, language, national identity, right to family relations, right to study abroad, go for a school trip and so on.
According to United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 8 the State is obliged to undertake to respect the child national identity and, family relations without unlawful interference:
Article 8
1. States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference.
2. Where a child is illegally deprived of some or all of the elements of his or her identity, States Parties shall provide appropriate assistance and protection, with a view to re-establishing speedily his or her identity.


4) Misuse of Stop List together with extremely opportunist and under developed family law lead to dramatic and absurd situations


Given the fact that in Cyprus the joint custody is given by default and neither full legal or residential custody is granted even in extreme abuse situations, it leads together with stop list application that women are forced to stay in Cyprus even if it is not in the best interest of the child.
Also, there are cases when the mother is forced to stay in Cyprus as the father put the child on stop list when the father sees the child randomly, not at all or even does not reside in Cyprus.
In my case an absurd opinion of the judge was issued that I (adult, EU citizen, divorced woman) have to ask for court license to travel abroad. As I have residential custody of the child with visitation of the father ACCORDING TO THIS INTERPRATION I CAN NOT TRAVEL WITH THE CHILD (STOP LIST) AND ALSO I CAN NOT TRAVEL WITHOUT THE CHILD (THE CHILD LIVES WITH ME SO MY TRAVELLING WOULD BE INTERPRETED AS ABANDONMENT).
Also, as the Courts push always for “consent” of the other parent for waving stop list instead of giving an allowance by the court. It leads to standardized abuse: the parent signs for the allowance and once the other part is gone cancels the permit. Many women reported to go to the airport to only find out that their allowance to travel for holidays with the child was in meantime canceled and no notice to her was given.
I am not quiet sure if Cyprus will pay me indemnification for losing my income that is related in big part to flexibility of travel.


I urge to take immediately the following actions:


1) Audit records on Stop List and and erase overdue alerts
2) Erase alerts referring to children with custody order in place
3) Introduce standard procedures for traveling abroad with one parent/guardian (standard form where will be reported place of travel, return date, any other procedure) that will be short, easy and low cost/free to the citizens
4) To introduce by default in custody orders rules for international travels for minors accompanied by one parent/guardian



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Ewa Waslicka needs your help with “Minister of Justice Cyprus: End up with giving no exit orders like candies to kids in Cyprus”. Join Ewa and 1,114 supporters today.