In April 2022, 11-year-old Alex from Ukraine, was taken to Italy by his mother, in violation of the custody arrangement. Alex’ father had custody rights, while his mother was allowed to spend time with her son. However, on April 2nd, she failed to return him at the agreed time and took him to Italy.

Alex’ father reported the abduction and used the 1980 Hague Convention on international child abduction to seek the court’s intervention for Alex’s return to Ukraine. As Alex’ habitual residence was in Ukraine and the father’s custody was undisputed, the Ukrainian court ruled in favour of the father, and an executive order was issued for Alex’s return, but the order was not executed by the Italian authorities. Alex’s father contacted Missing Children Europe, and the organisation contacted the Italian member Telefono Azzurro, to gather more information on Alex’ situation.

Alex’s case highlights the difficulties parents face when attempting to return their children in the context of the war in Ukraine. The Hague Convention was established to ensure the prompt return of children to their habitual place of residence if taken away without permission. However, in conflict-affected countries, the Convention allows for exceptions if returning the child poses physical or psychological harm.

This case raises a broader question of whether returns to Ukraine under the 1980 Hague Convention are possible at all while war in ongoing, even to the more “peaceful” regions of Ukraine. In difficult circumstances such as these, NGO Magnolia, together with Missing Children Europe’s member in the relevant country, in this case Telefono Azzurro, continue to monitor the situation and emphasize the vital importance of communication and collaboration amongst all parties involved.

*The young person’s name has been changed for protective purposes
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About Missing Children Europe

Missing Children Europe represents 32 Non-Governmental Organisations active in 27 countries across Europe for the prevention, protection and support of missing and sexually exploited children and their families. We provide the link between research, policies, and organisations on the ground to protect children from any form of violence, abuse, or neglect that is caused by or results from them going missing. Missing Children Europe coordinates the network of 116000 hotlines for missing children, and the network of cross border family mediators and facilitates coordination of cases that involve cross-border issues, ensuring that vulnerable children receive the help they need no matter where they are in Europe. 


About NGO Magnolia

NGO Magnolia was founded more than 20 years ago by a group of journalists to protect the rights of vulnerable children and families and to support the search for missing children through publicity appeals. Cooperating with almost 30 TV channels and advertising agencies, they share posters of missing children and video appeals from their families. Since its start, NGO Magnolia contributed to the search and location of more than 2300 children.


About Telefono Azzurro

Telefono Azzurro is an association created to be able to listen to children’s requests for help, a concrete response to the “right to listen” recognized to the child by the International Convention on the Rights of the Child signed by the United Nations. Today Telefono Azzurro is helplines and intervention lines, by telephone and online (mobile, web, chat, app, social network), emergency interventions in the event of calamities and disasters, projects for children of prisoners, projects in the area and prevention through education and awareness in schools, towards adults and towards those who decide.