Saturday, October 17, 2009

Pressure on Morocco over snatched children.

In an update to our story (see here: Sisters in Fez) about the two children who were snatched by their British mother and who then left them in Morocco, we can report that the mother, Trudy Crofts, has lost her fight against extradition back to the UK. Crofts is in prison in Spain after she was arrested for taking her daughters Carene and Shelby out of the country.

The Blackpool Gazette, which broke the story of how the young sisters were left with their mother's new partner in Morocco, today revealed Ms Crofts has lost an appeal in the Spanish courts against being brought back to the UK.

Lancashire Police last night received confirmation from Interpol – the international police organisation – that Ms Crofts can now be extradited.

Detectives will fly out to Madrid in the next few days to return the 32-year-old mum to Blackpool where she faces possible child abduction charges.

Ms Crofts, who lost custody of her daughters in 2002, will be quizzed about taking Carene, 12 and Shelby, 11, from their legal guardian, her own mother Rita Astbury.

She took the girls in August, flying to Spain and then Morocco, after she failed for the third time to win custody.

Police say she left the girls with her Moroccan partner's family before going back to Spain alone.

She was arrested at Alicante airport and has been in jail since, having initially appealed the extradition order.

The girls today remain in Morocco – 1,400 miles from their home on Milbourne Street, Blackpool.

Original reports suggested the girls were in Fez, but the latest information is that they were left in the town of Khenifra with Ms Crofts' partner's Moroccan family, who they have never met before.

A court order – issued in the UK – demanding they were returned home does not apply in Morocco as the country has not signed The Hague convention which covers child abduction.

The Foreign Office and the Ministry of Justice are now attempting diplomatic negotiations to have the girls returned home on humanitarian grounds.

Ms Astbury said she hoped Ms Crofts return to Britain may speed Carene and Shelby's return to the UK.

"Perhaps it will help us to negotiate directly with her," she said.

"We are looking into whether my brother, Freddie, may be able to go and talk to her and try and reason with her, to ask her to tell the Moroccan family to allow the girls to come home."

Ms Astbury, who was awarded custody after her daughter "struggled to cope", has attempted to speak to Carene and Shelby by phone.

However, every time she has called the phone has either been put down on her or the call has gone to an answer phone.

"It's so frustrating," she added, "I just want to know they are OK."

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden is attempting to put pressure on the Moroccan authorities.

He said: "I've had a conversation with Lord Bach, the Ministry of Justice minister responsible for these type of matters.

"He tells me because Morocco has not signed up to The Hague convention, which deals with child abduction issues, there is no legal ruling that can force the girls to be returned to their home.

"I'm now pressing the Foreign Office to engage in further negotiations and I will also be writing to the Moroccan ambassador in London to ask him to help facilitate a return on humanitarian grounds.

"It's a complex situation, but I am doing everything I can."

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