The Australian mother of four girls ordered to return to Italy with their father after losing a family court appeal have gone on the run with their great-grandmother.
According to news reports, the girls — aged between 8 and 15 — have appealed via Facebook to the authorities to prevent their father taking them back to Italy so that the Italian courts can rule on a parental custody battle.
The girls' mother — separated from her husband — had brought the children back to her native country in 2010 on the premise they would stay only for a vacation.
However, she remained in the country, enrolling the girls in schools in the state of Queensland and refusing to return them to Italy, where their father shared custody under a separation agreement.
According to the Brisbane Times, the girls' father had invoked the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction to have them returned to Italy, where they grew up.
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The girls themselves have appealed for help remaining in the country via local media, chiefly the Courier-Mail newspaper and 4BC Radio.
They say they fear for their safety and wellbeing if returned with their father, whom they described as physically abusive and a workaholic.
The eldest daughter, 14, said her father had broken her thumb when she tried to protect her head during a beating.
"I don't want to go. He was very violent when we were living in Italy," she said.
"We are settled here. I'd like to finish my studies here in high school and go to university. There's more opportunities in Australia than in Italy."
Her 13-year-old sister, told the paper: "I don't want to go back either. "I remember when I was little he'd hit us, and I remember when he hit my Mum."
However, a legal appeal by the girls and their mother to overturn the Family Court decision to repatriate them was rejected and an order issued for their repatriation.
A day before they were due to present themselves at Brisbane airport to fly back, the girls went missing, with their mother saying that while she did not know their whereabouts
The children's grandmother told the Brisbane Times that her daughter — who met her husband at age 16 on a study trip to Italy and married him at age 17 — turned to the media “as a last resort.”
She maintained that no-one aside from her mother, the children's great-grandmother, knew of their location.
“My mother said, 'I'm 70, what can they do to me? I will run for as long as I have to',” she said.
“There is no way in hell she will be taking those children to the airport. And there is nothing [my daughter] can do, because she doesn't know where they are.”
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