A small step in the right direction?

The information set out below has appeared – it is not clear when exactly – on the Consulate-General of Japan in Edinburgh website; there does not appear to be an equivalent entry on the Japan Embassy in London website, at least not in the English section.  I reproduce the text in full below – to guard against the possibility of future removal – but the original web page can be accessed here.

Without at any stage using the word abduction, the page states that in cases where a (non-Japanese) parent has previously registered an objection to the issue of a chid passport with the Consulate General, a passport will “usually” only be issued where both parents consent – in circumstances where there is no pre-registered objection, the consent of one parent would suffice.

On one view, this is a case of “too little, too late” in the sense that the wrongful removal of a child can now, in theory, be put right through the Hague Convention and, in any event, this web page does not suggest that, even with one parent objecting, a passport will not be issued.  It also, of course, does nothing to address abductions taking place on the basis of previously-issued and still valid passports.  However the inclusion of this information can be said to suggest that Japan is possibly beginning to take these issues more seriously than in the past.

The web page reads as follows:

Application for Japanese passports of minors

Recently, as a number of international marriages has increased, there have been cases in which one parent, whose marriage has faced a difficulty and who has a different nationality from his/her spouse, takes his/her child back to his/her home country against the law of country of residence. Such cases have raised concern, and the following points regarding Japanese passport application for minors in relation with the child custody issue should be noted.

Regarding the application for Japanese passport of minors, Japan issues passports by having a signature of a custodian as a legal representative to the application form. However, if the other parent has expressed* his/her disagreement on the issuance of the child’s passport to the Consulate General of Japan in Edinburgh beforehand, the passport will usually be issued after the verification of the consent of both parents. In this verification process, the Consulate General of Japan in Edinburgh checks in principle with the parent who disagreed beforehand on the issuance of child’s passport whether he/she is now willing to submit a “Letter of Consent for an Application of Passport”. The passport will be issued after the submission of the Letter.

*(the expression of disagreement should be made in principle by a signed document attaching a supporting document which demonstrates the possession of parental authority)

In the UK, taking a child abroad without consent of his/her spouse who has parental authority is accounted to criminal liability (Please see the Directgov’s information). In fact, there are cases in which parent taking a child was arrested of child abduction when he/she re-entered the country, or that parent was placed on the international wanted list of International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO). To prevent Japanese citizens from such disadvantages, the Consulate General of Japan in Edinburgh is checking verbally to confirm the existence of agreement of both parents on the application for child’s passport, even if there is no declaration of disagreement from one parent.

For passport application procedures, please contact Consular Section by email visa@ed.mofa.go.jp or by telephone 0131 225 4777 (please select 2 for English guidance and then 1 for passport enquiries)

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