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Child travel is a serious issue

Think before you travel, says an immigration officer

AS AN immigration officer, I was shocked to read the August article on child travel where a UK Border Agency spokeswoman said “it was uncommon for a passport official to ask for a letter” if a child is travelling with an adult who bears a different surname.

My wife and I have lived in France for six years and, in that time, I have worked at Paris, Brussels, Calais, Coquelles, Boulogne and Dunkerque. In my experience, it has always been policy to question an adult as to how and why they are travelling with the child and if they have any documentation to support the reasons they give.

French people normally carry their Livre de Famille (which lists the parents and children), as French mothers often have their maiden name in their passports or on their ID cards. Sometimes mothers will have their maiden name plus “ép” for épouse and the name of the father.

It would seem common sense, if you are travelling with another person’s child, that you have some form of authority to allow you to cross a border. Britain is not part of the Schengen agreement and still maintains a strong border controls.

We do advise mothers with a different surname to their children’s to carry the birth certificate of the child which will list the partner’s name. Grandparents, other relatives, or friends should carry a letter of authority from the
parent, written on a copy of the parent’s passport. Something handwritten on an ordinary piece of paper is not recommended.

As a footnote, I have been involved in two child trafficking cases in Paris in recent weeks, plus many more in the past. The same can be said for my colleagues throughout the juxtaposed controls (so named as we work alongside our French and Belgium counterparts).

It happens more often than most people think; we are always on the lookout for it.

Think before you travel. We all have a duty of care to children in our company: we take ours seriously.

Clive MORGAN, Paris and Placy Montaigu

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