SUPPORT FOR SARAH APPEAL
A Derry-Londonderry mother and child stranded thousands of miles from home have made an appeal to the public for help.
The woman, who refused to return to a foreign jurisdiction with her child to because she believed that they were at grave risk, was compelled by court order to return her toddler to that country.
Sarah and her child - not her real name as neither she nor her child can be identified for legal reasons - are currently homeless as they wait for legal proceedings to begin.
The woman, who has been told that she is not entitled to benefits or free legal aid, is not allowed to work and her savings have run out.
The woman’s family have said that they have no choice but to appeal to the public for help as she faces huge fees in her legal battle.
Foyle Women’s Aid has now set up a special bank account and is appealing for urgent donations to the Appeal fund.
“Sarah is very vulnerable with little to no resources for herself and her child. She is far away from home, alone, scared and without resources she needs to fight her case, get justice and come back home," said Women's Aid director Marie Brown.
“Foyle Women’s Aid has been supporting Sarah since her return, and she isn’t being afforded the same protection she could access under normal circumstances here."
Her child's father took her to court under The Hague Convention and an order was made compelling her to return the child to the country they had fled.
Marie Brown insisted: "The Hague Convention is outdated and does not take into account the woman's circumstances and fears. How is it right to leave a family so vulnerable?
"We campaigned over 10 years ago for this law to change with the Cara Gunn case and here we are with another woman and child in the similar position. The reaction of the public was overwhelming the last time and we hope that people will find it in their hearts to respond similarly to this woman’s plight," she said.
Sarah's family, who are very concerned for her safety have exhausted their savings getting her legal help abroad.
"We find it hard to believe that a woman would end up having to return to a country where she has nowhere to live, is not allowed to work and gets no free legal aid - to fight for the most important thing in her life - her child."
"She is so far from home and so afraid - our hearts are breaking but we have to stay strong and help her to fight this case and get her home, safe, with us," a family spokesperson said.
They add that Sarah's child was born here Derry after a short relationship between Sarah and his father, who are not married.
Sarah has spent recent weeks trying to find suitable accommodation and support, but with little success.
"It's as if people want to hear my story, then go - 'oh there's nothing we can do'. It is very concerning and emotionally draining," said Sarah.
"I have never felt so vulnerable in my entire life. It's awful. Trying to look after a wee child in these circumstances is a nightmare," she said in a recent email to Foyle Women's Aid.
Mr Mark Durkan MP, recently mentioned Sarah's case in Adjournment debate in Westminster in which he raised the issue of The Hague Convention.
" I am not concerned because the court made those decisions, but a question arises for legislators and for Government as the transposing signatory to The Hague Convention as to whether we are perhaps leaving courts in a position where they have to take decisions on fairly narrow grounds in fairly shady light, sometimes having to disregard evidence that people try to bring forward in relation to either abuse against them that they allege took place at the hands of the other parent or where they say they have evidence of ill treatment or questionable treatment by the other parent of the child," he said.
Support for Sarah Appeal Sort Code: 950676 Account Number: 30006513
For more information please contact Foyle Women's Aid on +44 2871 416800