Topics:  caryl highton, deportation, family court, hague convention, italy

Girls facing deportation vanish

Four girls being deported to Italy, pictured with their great grandmother Caryl Highton.
Four girls being deported to Italy, pictured with their great grandmother Caryl Highton. Cade Mooney

5PM UPDATE: THE four school girls facing deportation to Italy have officially been declared "missing".

Police have been in contact with the family, including the mother, to try and establish the whereabouts of the children.

It is understood the children were expected to be hand-over to the Department of Communities at 2.30pm this afternoon - ahead of their midnight tomorrow deadline.

The mother said she had been informed the children had to be handed over early because of "all the media attention".

The mother has said she has "no idea" where the children are.

She thought they might be in the care of one of her aunt's.

Great grandmother in plea for girls to stay in Australia

THE great grandmother of four Coast schoolgirls facing deportation to Italy has begged Australian authorities to intervene.

Caryl Highton, of Buderim, yesterday spent an emotional Mother's Day with her granddaughter and four great-granddaughters, who must be handed over to their Italian father at midnight tomorrow.

The girls, aged 15, 13, 11 and nine, have been told they will be forcibly taken from their mother if she does not hand them to him at Brisbane Airport, as directed under a Family Court ruling handed down in March.

>> Read the original decision of the Family Court

>> Read the appeal decision from the full bench of the Family Court

The girls cannot be identified because it is a Family Court matter but Ms Highton said they had made it clear they did not want to go.

"They are happy here on the Coast - it has been their home for two years," she said.

"They have their schools and their friends.

"They are scared of their father but they have been told they will be dragged onto the plane if they refuse to go.

"There have been threats that they will be handcuffed, even drugged, by authorities if that's what it takes to make them comply.

"The legal system has simply let them down and in less than 48 hours they will be on their way to Italy.

"All we can do is beg authorities to stop it."

The girls' mother moved to Italy when she was 15 to study Italian and married the girls' father when she was 17.

She fled Italy with the girls two years ago and her husband did not follow.

Six months ago he started legal proceedings to try to gain custody of the children, pursuing her under the Hague Convention's child abduction regulations.

Their mother was shocked to learn the court had ruled in his favour, despite her and the girls testifying about his abusive past and how the children felt about the situation.

She lost her Family Court appeal in March but claims she was let down by her legal teams - firstly Legal Aid and then Coast lawyers who failed to turn up for court proceedings, forcing her to represent herself.

Ms Highton said there were complicated legal arguments which she was sure would save the girls from deportation, but time was quickly running out.

"Under The Hague Convention - the same laws under which their father fought to get them - it is a violation of the girls' human rights to expose them to physical or psychological harm or place them in an intolerable situation," she said.

"That is exactly what will happen if they are forced to return to Italy.

"We have documents which prove they will be in danger if they are put into their father's care.

"Besides that, the girls genuinely don't want to go but are being forced by an Australian Government which apparently doesn't care about their human rights.

"I am begging the Attorney-General and anyone else with any power to step in and put a stop to the deportation while the matter is sorted out properly.

"We just want justice for the girls.

"They are being treated like criminals ... how can any country or community with any sort of conscience allow that to happen."



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