London – British Institute of International and Comparative Law

4-7pm – 22nd and 23rd June 2017

On the 22nd and 23rd June 2017 the premises of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law hosted the sixth event organised in the context of the Separated Children in Judicial Proceedings Project, run by the AIRE Centre, in collaboration with Child Circle (Belgium), the Centre for Women War Victims, ROSA (Croatia) and the University College of Cork (Ireland), with the partial funding of the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the EU.  

More than a year since its kick-off event in April 2016, the Separated Children in Judicial Proceedings Project continues to pursue its objective of bringing together leading judicial, legal and other professionals working on different aspects of children protection to promote the exchange of good practices and encourage the cross-fertilisation between standards and practices emerging from different and - only apparently - unconnected areas of law.

 Building on the experience of a previous event held in London in September 2016, the June event went back to discuss current issues affecting children in abduction and relocation situations, exploring how to safeguard the best interest of the child in both private law judicial proceedings concerning lawful relocation and in proceedings concerning the wrongful removal or retention in international abduction cases.

In line with the multi-faceted nature of these phenomena, the relocation and abduction of children was examined in its various dimensions, across the contexts of family, care and migration proceedings. This allowed a lively exchange of views on existing good practices emerging from each field, encouraging a reflection on how to transplant them in different areas of law where their use could be conducive to reinforcing the protection of the child.


With the working sessions running from 4:00 to 7:00 pm on both days, the event adopted an innovative format specifically designed to maximise the attendance of practitioners without interfering with their work commitments.  Adding to the innovative structure of the initiative, the event moved away from the panel sessions adopted in previous occasions and opened the floor to an interactive discussion between key contributors from different areas of law, who were encouraged to bring a spontaneous input to the discussion based on their area of expertise.


On day 1 the event examined the various aspects and legal contentions around children relocation, discussing how to ensure the best interests of the child in the context of relocations originating from family breakdown scenarios ass well as in internal and international relocations.

After an introductory note to the issue under discussion given on both days by Nuala Mole, Senior Lawyer and founder of the AIRE Centre, distinguished experts in the field including Rachael Kelsey, Sheehan Kelsey Oswald, International Academy of Family Lawyers (IAFL), Henry Setright QC, 4PB and Dervla Browne, the Bar of Ireland, engaged in an open discussion on the issues under consideration.

The invaluable presence and contribution of Philippe Lortie, First Secretary of the Hague Conference on Private International Law, introduced the audience to the role of the Convention instruments in shaping children protection in Europe, with special reference to the 1996 and to the 1980 Conventions. Mike Hinchliffe, Principal Lawyer at Cafcass, provided an invaluable insider perspective on the role of this authority in making the child’s views heard in the context of relocation proceedings.  


Finally,  the AIRE Centre Legal Project Manager Markella Papadouli drew the audience attention to the issue of children relocation from the angle of Dublin transfers of minor asylum seekers, with special focus on the situation of children in the Greek and Italian hotspots and to those children trapped in the Calais jungle, at the core of the debate around the UK unfulfilled pledges under the ‘Dubs amendment’.

The works of the first day were closed by a speech by Nuala Mole on the consequences of BREXIT on the standards and rights surrounding the relocation of children in Europe.


On day 2 the event moved to examine the issues relevant to the various dimensions of children abduction, from wrongful removal and retention in family scenarios, to forced returns in the migration realm.

Interestingly, the event proposed an innovative - and provoking - conceptualisation of removals enacted for care or welfare reasons as a form of “State abduction”. Drawing on similar considerations, Maria Hennessy, Irish Council of Refugees, addressed the issue of forced Dublin transfers of minor asylum seekers, while Markella Papadouli discussed child trafficking as another example of wrongful abduction of children, shedding light on its worryingly growing reach in the midst of the migration crisis.

Close attention was also given to removals carried out to address the risk of radicalisation of children in their family environment, a phenomenon of ever increasing relevance recently under the scrutiny of the UK Courts in the case of Local Authority v HB (2017) EWHC 1437 (26 may 2017), discussed throughout the event.

 Other leading specialists in the field took part in the conference, contributing to animate the roundtable discussion over the two days. Among others, the event saw invaluable contributions from Anne-Marie Hutchinson OBE QC, Dawson Cornwell, Catherine Meredith, Doughty Street Chambers, Catherine Robinson, 1 Pump Court, Chris Barnes, 4PB London, David Chirico, 1 Pump Court, David Williams QC, 4PB London, Deirdre Fottrell QC, 1 Garden Court.

On both days, the second part of the afternoon was dedicated to the analysis and discussion of various case-studies, designed to provide a hands-on perspective to the issues examined un the first part of the event. The participants broke into working groups and were assigned a different case, that they were asked to analyse with the assistance of the experts in the room, who provided precious inputs and answered questions throughout. At the end of the exercise, the findings emerging from the discusssion of the case were further commented by Nuala Mole, who offered guidance on the issues at stake.

A keynote Speech by Mr Justice McCloskey, President of the Upper Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber, successfully closed the working sessions of the second day.

The event attracted a large expert audience including legal and judicial practitioners and representatives from civil society and specialised agencies, with  over 50 participants on both days.