With international travel severely disrupted, closures of international borders, quarantine measures in place in certain countries, returning children to their home country has not been without its challenges. Some commentators and indeed some court practitioners have argued that children should not be returned at all during the pandemic.
The Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) has recognised the difficulties and have produced a toolkit for both parties and stakeholders involved in 1980 Hague Convention return cases. It is clear that the focus is on the child and that the convention should continue to be used during Covid-19 times with extra measures on practicalities being considered to ensure the child's safe and prompt return to their home country.
This is very much the approach of the Scottish Court. Having also spoken with other international child abduction lawyers and a perusal of case law from Canada, Israel, England and Australia during covid-19 times, while the courts had been asked to consider covid-19 a barrier to return, the general approach has been to focus on the practical arrangements for the child's safe return and then enforce that return.
In Scotland, safe return of children under the 1980 Hague Convention has been achieved to countries such as Poland, Malta and Australia by focusing on the practical arrangements for a safe return. Increased use of the judicial Hague network, greater communication between central authorities, liaising with embassies to deal with immigrations issues and increased use of undertakings in relation to accommodation, flight costs and health care cover have all been utilised.
By focusing on the child, abducted children have been able to be safely and securely returned even during this world wide pandemic.