The Crime of International Parental Child Abduction
Briefing to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission)
October 25, 2017
Testimony of Leo Zagaris, teen survivor of IPCA
My name is Leo Zagaris and my father held me in Greece after summer vacation in 2011. I remained with him as he and my mother hashed things out in court until finally my mother came in March of 2013 to bring me back home to Indiana.
I was an international visitation child like many others. Before this happened, I would fly as an unaccompanied minor and there were always other kids on the plane, doing just as I was. Travelling to visit their mom or dad….even grandparents, overseas.
The fact is there are so many children just like me with international parents that are divorced. They travel freely between countries and everything is fine. And it should be fine. BUT sometimes our parents don’t want to play fair and they try to keep us from the other parent.
To those parents I just want to shout:
“Hey! We are your kids, not your weapons to use against each other!
We get that you don’t love each other anymore but we still love you both. So love us enough to respect the fact we want both parents in our lives.”
And to all the governments worldwide I would just like to say this…
There are children that are abducted by a parent stuck in countries all over this globe. I’ve watched my mom as she advocates to help bring other children home now and I get what she must have gone through with getting me back.
So if courts and governments could start acting like these kids are abducted and start getting them back where the belong more quickly, then maybe more kids like me could come home too.
I was lucky that I could still communicate in English when I came home.
But what if I was four when I left and then returned at 6? Probably not.
I was lucky that I was only held back at school by a year. But I definitely wasn’t happy when I came home and was a grade behind all my friends that I grew up with.
Maybe if the courts would have moved faster I could have been home in a matter of weeks...I would have been happy with a matter of months even. But I was gone for almost two years. Two years that didn’t have to be. I may be a child but even I can see how ridiculous and wrong that is, to make kids wait so long to go home. To a child this seems like a lifetime.
The last thing courts and governments and diplomats need to be doing is wasting more time talking about it and not actually doing something about it.
So from a child’s perspective...well that’s my perspective. I hope it helps.