What is the 116 000 hotline?

The 116 000 is the European missing children hotline number reserved by the European Commission. Through this number, anyone calling the hotline in their country or in another European country, will have access to the life saving support they need. The hotline service is connected to the national organisation, specialised in dealing with missing children cases. 

Research shows that the first hours after the disappearance of a child are of vital importance. Therefore having "an easy to remember" telephone number that is also cross border at the disposal of parents and victims across Europe is extremely important to enable immediate action of the responsible local authorities.

The 116 000 hotline is active in all EU member states as well as Serbia and Albania. In 2015, the hotline was run by a member of Missing Children Europe in 22 countries.

See the annual missing children figures and trends report for 2015 here.


National 116 000 hotline operators across Europe 


Full member
Applicant member
Not a member

> Different categories of missing children

A report on the problem of missing children undertaken by the European Commission highlights that, in the EU alone, a child is reported missing every two minutes. Complexities regarding data collection on missing children reviewed in the report also underline that this figure is likely to represent only the tip of the iceberg. 

In 2015, the caseload of 116 000 hotlines for missing children member of Missing Children Europe provided the following proportion of cases:

Proportion of different categories of missing children cases reported by 116 000 hotlines

Runaways include children who run away from a situation of violence or abuse at home or in the care institution where they have been placed. Research conducted in a number of EU Member States shows that runaways are more likely to have failed or missed classes at school, to have used illegal drugs and to have taken medication against anxiety. Runaways are also 9 times more likely to commit suicide than their peers. While being on the run, 25% of all young runaways face serious risks, including sexual exploitation and trafficking. It is clear that specialised help is needed to bring – and keep – these children from harm. 

With regard to international parental abductions, 116 000 hotlines provide a range of services including prevention and mediation, in the best interest of the child. Research confirms that the abduction of a child by a parent has a detrimental impact on the emotional development of the child and that emotional and psychological problems last until long after the abduction.

Missing unaccompanied children constitute yet another group of extremely vulnerable children, as many disappear upon arrival in Europe, often to end up in the hands of traffickers and never to be found again.

Read Missing Children Europe's full data report on missing children for 2015 here.

> Interagency cooperation

Because of the nature of the issues dealt with, 116 000 hotlines work in cooperation with law enforcement, social services, central authorities, social services, emergency services and other relevant stakeholders. 

This inter-agency approach is promoted among 116 000 hotlines, to allow an effective complementarity with the different services, responding to the needs of parents and children calling the hotline. Specific examples of cooperation include official protocols between the hotline and national law enforcement determining reciprocal support, training of law enforcement officers by specialised staff from the hotline on private law aspects related to international parental abductions, interconnection of 116 000 and 112 and much more.

Recent developments and models in implementing the 116 000 hotlines across Europe 

> Hotlines for missing children

The 116 000 hotline for missing children was reserved in 2007 by the European Commission, and has been implemented gradually at national level since. Today the hotline is operational in all EU Member States as well as in Serbia and Albania.

Operational 116 000 hotlines have generated tangible and real change for the life of parents and children across Europe. Through the number parents and children alike, whether at home or in another European country, have obtained free emotional, psychological, social, legal and administrative support. This holistic and multidisciplinary approach is necessary to deal with the specific needs of parents and children calling the hotline.

> European network

Beyond the cooperation between 116 000 hotlines and national services operated in the respective countries, missing children hotlines also actively cooperate across borders, in particular within the framework of projects developed by Missing Children Europe. Efforts undertaken over the past years have focused on: 

- Awareness: 116 000 hotlines have coordinated efforts in raising awareness on missing children, through projects including viral video campaigns, the award-winning Notfound project, common posters and flyer campaigns etc. 

- Quality: 116 000 hotlines jointly developed a Practical Guide for Hotline Operators outlining common minimum quality standards in operating 116 000 hotlines as well as basic cross border cooperation procedures. The guide is available and used in 15 languages. At present, Missing Children Europe is developing a harmonised Client Relationship and Data Collection Management system, which will provide for an additional step in the effectivity of the network. 

- Funding: The European Commission provided funding for the hotlines between 2011 and 2014, leading to a gradual increase in calls responded to by the network, as well as improvements regarding the quality of service and operation of the hotlines. Funding was discontinued in 2015, which had an impact on the network, including a considerable drop in staff operating the hotlines as well as in calls responded. Funding has been awarded to 15 hotlines for 2016. 

While Member States have an obligation to support hotlines under the Universal Service Directive art 27a, many hotlines do not benefit from national funding. 

- Implementation: The implementation of the 116 000 hotlines in all EU Member States has been stimulated i.a. through a close cooperation with national regulatory authorities in the field of telecommunications as well as telecom operators. Other efforts include the provision of training of staff by other hotlines, through peer visits and exchange of best practice. 

> Challenges and next steps

Despite the progress of the network, 116 000 hotlines member of Missing Children Europe reported the following challenges: 

Key challenges reported by 116 000 hotlines

Missing Children Europe is determined to continue working with the hotlines to make sure that each and everyone of the current 250 000 children reported missing in the EU as well as those who are not covered by these statistics receive vital support.