Freelance journalist Scott McIntyre with his two children in Japan.

Australia must raise tragedy of child abductions with Japan

Japan stands almost alone among developed nations in having sole custody after divorce and the official approach here has long been whoever takes physical possession of a child will be awarded custody.

In what other nation would the widespread abduction of Australian children lead to the Prime Minister lauding the relationship between the two nations as one of “like-minded” partners, as Scott Morrison did this week in Tokyo upon meeting the new Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga?

Freelance journalist Scott McIntyre with his two children in Japan.

Freelance journalist Scott McIntyre with his two children in Japan.

My story is, unfortunately, just one of the thousands that impact foreigners from across the
world who have had a child with a Japanese citizen.

For more than 500 days, I have pleaded with Japanese authorities to provide any form of information as to the whereabouts of my children, over whom I have joint legal and physical custody and with no court-ordered ban preventing me from seeing them. Nobody will tell me where my children are, simply saying their mother does not want me to know and that there is nothing that can be done to stop that.

This is a familiar story to dozens of Australian parents, both mothers and fathers, who have had a child either abducted to or within Japan and simply never heard from them again. Our children have been denied access to not only their parents but also their extended Australian families, their history, culture and language, and the Australian government has not once stepped in to ask where our children are and demand answers from Japan.

The official response we have received from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is that they consider these issues “private legal matters” and are working “behind the scenes” to resolve custody issues with Japan.

That doesn’t help those of us who currently have custody and whose rights, under both Japanese law and international treaties ratified by both Japan and Australia, are being abused or those who have already lost contact with their abducted children.

A group of Australian parents in Japan recently made requests to both the Foreign Affairs Minister, Marise Payne, on her visit to Tokyo last month, as well as to the Prime Minister during this week’s trip to meet and discuss the cases of our abducted children. We were told that wouldn’t be possible.

This is in stark contrast to the European Parliament, which earlier this year called on Japan to “end and comply with international rules on child abduction”.

In a similar manner, we are calling on the Morrison government to put all security and trade talks with Japan on hold until such time that our children are located and given access to their Australian parents.

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I’m aware that events from 2015, when I was sacked from SBS for tweets I made on Anzac Day which were considered disrespectful, may lead some to lack sympathy for me on this issue but this is about my children and the dozens of others who have simply disappeared in Japan, never to be seen again.

Simply put, there can be no ‘like-minded’ approach from the Morrison government to a nation that has failed to prevent and address the abduction of so many of our most
innocent. We’re calling for justice for our children, the missing generation, taken by Japan.

Scott McIntyre is a freelance journalist.

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