TAMPA — A Tampa mom is pleading for help to bring her son home after she says his father moved him Lebanon without her permission.
3-year-old Dexter was supposed to spend a court-ordered weekend with his father. Instead, Rachelle Smith says Dexter’s father Ali Salamey, a US citizen, went to the embassy, attained passports for himself and Dexter, and then flew them both to Beirut.
“I will never stop looking for you, I promise,” Smith said.
Smith says she suspected her son Dexter would be moved to Lebanon by his father and appealed to the court. But Ali Salamey was still able to obtain passports through the Lebanese embassy.
"I stated that I fear that Mr. Salamey will remove and hide our child. This fear was clearly valid," Smith said. "I am here to beg for any and all help to get my little boy returned."
Lebanon does not partake in US extradition laws. It also did not sign the Hague Convention Agreement, an international treaty protecting against cases like these. So as it stands, she has no power to bring him back.
Without assistance from the state department and president, she believes she may never see her son again. She is asking Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio to help her in bringing Dexter home.
"I would never have thought he would have taken any attempts to separate the child from his mother," Alex Stavrou, the attorney for Ali Salamey, said. "Ali, quite frankly, lived for his son."
“Most parents, when this happens to them, they are absolutely paralyzed," iStand Parent Network president Dr. Noelle Hunter said.
Hunter knows this all too well. In 2011 her daughter Mia was taken to Mali by Mia’s dad. But Hunter got her back.
“I staged a protest in front of the Mali embassy in Washington DC.”
Like Smith, she appealed to the court. She says if you suspect this will happen, listen to your gut, get a court order, warn officials, contact the airlines, and register your child with the Children’s Passport Issuance Alert Program. She says to also contact the embassy you think the parent will go to.
“Enroll their child in something called the prevent abduction program,” Hunter said.
“That embassy has no obligation, unfortunately, to honor an American parent’s wishes that a passport not be issued.”
Like Lebanon, Mali has no extradition policy but Hunter got her senators and the state department involved and Mia came home.
“Mali started to pay attention when governmental actors started to indicate that this American child needed to come home and that there would be progressive actions until that happened.”