Drunk parents forget kids on holiday

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Some Norwegian embassies in countries popular with vacationing Norwegians have been dealing with a thorny problem of late: Drunken adults who forget their children while on holiday in foreign countries. The children face traveling home alone, when their parents fail to turn up for flight departure times.

A holiday in warmer climes isn't always fun for children of parents who engage in too much partying. PHOTO: Norsk Sjømannskirken

Newspaper Aftenposten reported Wednesday that Norwegian embassies in countries like Spain, Turkey and Greece have been contacted to help sort out assistance for children abandoned by parents who have gone off partying without them.

In one recent case, Foreign Ministry personnel were contacted at 4:30am by a travel firm concerned for the welfare of an 11-year-old Norwegian child whose mother couldn’t be found just hours before their return flight to Norway was due to depart. Ministry staff scrambled to arrange for the child to travel alone but be met by the state childrens’ protective services staff (Barnevernet) when the flight landed in Norway. The mother eventually turned up but was so drunk that airline staff wouldn’t allow her on board. The child then traveled home in the company of another Norwegian family, and officials arranged for her uncle to pick her up at the airport. The mother returned on a later flight.

“Our embassy in Ankara is all too familiar with this problem and can point to several concrete examples where children have been left to themselves during family holiday trips,” Kjetil Elsebutangen of the Foreign Ministry in Oslo told Aftenposten. He said the embassy also has arranged trips home for abandoned children. “The cases often involve alcohol or psychiatric problems,” Elsebutangen added.

It’s recently been reported that summer drunks are keeping police busy in Norway, and drunkenness among Norwegians has long been a problem abroad as well, not least since prices for wine and liquor are often a fraction of what they are back home. “In the course of a summer, 270,000 Norwegians travel with us,” Marie-Anne Zachrisson of travel company Ving Norge told Aftenposten. “Among them are people who can’t handle alcohol.”

The effect this can have on children traveling with partying parents is nothing short of shocking. Norway’s embassy in Athens also has “several concrete examples” of having to help abandoned children, while the Norwegian consulate in Alicante in Spain has “a handful” of such examples.

The children are often rescued by alert hotel staff, other guests or the travel company that has arranged the family’s trip. Norwegian Seamen’s Churches, now known as the Norwegian Church Abroad, also have been called upon to help. “I know that some colleagues have had to check into hotels themselves to take care of children,” said a church pastor on Gran Canaria. Zachrisson said incidents are seldom, “but when they occur we take care of the child and contact Norwegian authorities.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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