Inconceivably, many countries including the United States, Canada, and nations in the European Union have policies in place that allow for a child 16 years old or younger traveling abroad by either land or by sea to only present to border officials a photocopy of their proof of citizenship such as their original birth certificate.
In fact, many governments' immigration, borders, and customs agencies publicly and privately have voiced that excessive travel documentation fraud has given rise to dramatic and sweeping increases in the number of international child abductions and human trafficking cases around the world. According to law enforcement officials worldwide, the most effective means to determine if a child is legally traveling abroad is by checking the child’s passport. Nevertheless, even the presentation of a valid passport may not alleviate all illegal removals, particularly those connected to an international parental child abduction due to the potential issuance of a secondary passport related to a child’s possible dual citizenship. However, access to real-time government records associated with a valid passport provides border agents better insight into who is legally crossing into their nation's borders.
Carolyn Ann Vlk, drafter of the State of Florida’s landmark ‘Child Abduction Prevention Act’ and co-author of numerous research reports on child abduction commented on the need to conduct research on the global dilemma of abduction and trafficking as it is related to significant gaps in travel documentation requirements for children traveling abroad. “My volunteer advocacy in the area of child abduction prevention has allowed me an unobstructed view of the horror the families of a targeted child face. I've spent an incredible amount of time investigating and analyzing current legislation, policies, and trends relevant to child abduction and I have uncovered significant loopholes that are allowing children to be victimized through parental child abduction and human trafficking. In the report Peter Thomas Senese and I published concerning the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), we realize the policy was intended to prevent abduction and trafficking from occurring but in reality it facilitates the cross border abduction of children through its deficiencies. WHTI allows for the travel requirements of children to vary depending on if they are traveling by land, sea or air. In our upcoming report titled ‘Global Child Slavery and International Child Abduction Associated With Travel Documentation Requirements' we will publish our findings concerning travel documentation issues as they relate to child abduction and slavery issues. Our future published findings will demonstrate the urgent and critical need for uniform travel requirements for children, including a passport requirement for all modes of travel. Without uniform passport requirements, society will continue to embrace child abduction and child trafficking, and this is completely unacceptable.”
Oslo based Martin Waage, the Director of ABP World Group: a world-renown investigation and security team that has remarkably been directly involved in safely recovering over 200 criminally internationally abducted children commented on the outrageous border-crossing situation. "The expanding number of criminally abducted and trafficked children presents a deeply disturbing overview of how severe the situation is. Tragically, the greatest challenge we face in the war against child abduction and trafficking is our inability to carefully monitor and control our borders. Most nations do not have border exit controls. Coupling this incapability with weak travel documentation requirements for children, the hope advocates like myself have to one day reverse the current growth trend is dismal. As one of the leading organizations operating within the recovery of abducted, missing, and kidnapped children, ABP World Group has for years seen an explosive increase in the number of abducted and kidnapped children worldwide. Individual countries' lack of regulation and inspection of travelers, including the European Union’s open borders, has facilitated a large flow of trafficked victims, children abducted by their parents, and kidnappings across borders. This is particularly true in Eastern European, Asian and African countries. In order to stop the destruction of an unthinkable number of children's lives, lawmakers in all countries must address these needs and create laws that protect children's rights, including, critically, changing the travel documentation requirements for all children traveling abroad to include the presentation of a valid passport at all border crossings. Having recovered a substantial number of criminally abducted children taken to and from all over the world, I cannot express in strong enough terms the need to have passports presented at all border crossings for minors traveling abroad. Any failure by governments to address this issue is a direct and absolute disregard to a nation’s most precious citizens: its children."
Florida lawyer Patricia Lee, a prominent, successful international family law attorney who is of counsel to the international law firm of Urban Thier Federer & Jackson, and who has substantial familiarity with international parental child abduction cases added, “As a family law practitioner who frequently deals with international issues, I see the risk of, and actual incidences of child abduction growing proportionately to our world shrinking. The failure, or inability, of courts to aggressively pursue reasonable precautions to proactively prevent such abductions is a crime in and of itself. Once an abduction has taken place, the left behind parent faces a morass of legal issues that are not only difficult to surmount due to language and cultural differences, but are also prohibitively expensive for the ordinary parent. The backlash is often permanent, and goes without any redress at all. Our best recourse is to prevent the removal of children at risk prior to it occurring, and we absolutely must have laws and procedures in place that allow us to do so. Anything less is simply irresponsible, and inhumane on a global scale. Children across the world deserve these simple safeguards from such abduction and victimization.”
San Francisco based Gloria Nyberg, who has dedicated several decades of her life to successfully and safely bringing home children criminally abducted abroad added, “Documentation falsifications is a consistent aspect of travel for children being transported from one country to another, particularly in South and Central America. Children disappear daily, where they are eventually sold and distributed around the world to beasts trading in the child sex slave industry, to drug dealers increasing their cartel’s presence, or are simply killed for their body organs. Without upholding passport travel requirements for children traveling from one country to another, we are in fact responsible for the monumental problem on our hands that has been partially created by our own failures to protect our children. It is time that we act responsibly as adult citizens charged with protecting innocent children. Indeed, we have an obligation to do our very best to prevent the facilitation of international abduction and child slavery. It is critical that each government adopt a passport-only travel documentation policy for children traveling abroad. Anything less than this is irresponsible.”
Pamela Michell, the remarkable founder of Survivor On A Mission and a leading global advocate spearheading public awareness of human trafficking and slavery issues stated, “Today, there are tens of millions of child slaves with no hope for a future. Kept silent through fraud, force or coercion, children around the world are stolen from their communities in epidemic proportion. Most are forced into slave labor, some caged for sexual exploitation, others await the harvesting of their vital organs, while others abducted live a life on the run...each enduring trauma and danger few will overcome. Strong action is needed now by all governments to protect our children’s' future. Critically we call upon the creation and enforcement of global laws that require a passport to be presented any time a minor travels abroad. Without this, the massive amount of travel documentation fraud that exists today that accounts for an inconceivable and incredulous number of innocent children to be targeted victims of abduction and slavery crimes will continue to rise. As global citizens, we demand more from our governments. Our children expect better from each of us."
International child trafficking and child abduction continues to grow at rapid, uncontrollable, and extraordinary rates. Alarmingly, there still remain achievable protective protocols that can substantially make a difference in the war against child abduction and slavery. One of the most important tools each nation has available to combat the evil of child abduction is to require all children to present a valid passport when traveling abroad. Peter Thomas Senese added, “What is at stake are the lives of millions of targeted children each year. Simply put, we must modify existing laws to include passport presentation for all travelers abroad regardless of age.”