Training professionals to prevent and respond to thousands of migrant child disappearances

More than 89,000 unaccompanied children arrived in the European Union in 2015. Many of these children are fleeing war and abuse and are purposely separated from their parents during the chaos at borders. According to Europol at least 10,000 refugee children are unaccounted for after arriving in Europe with many feared to be exploited and abused for sexual or labour purposes. Just this week Germany reported at least 9,000 children who are unaccounted for in Germany alone.

Missing Children Europe coordinates the SUMMIT project to specifically address the challenge of the disappearance of migrant children.  A study released earlier this year as part of the project showed that very few grassroots professionals who work directly with these children receive any kind of training on how to prevent or respond to the disappearance of unaccompanied children.

In response to this, the SUMMIT project is organising a training seminar for grassroots professionals that will take place today and tomorrow (14-15 April) in Brussels. The event will be attended by 62 frontline professionals such as law enforcement officers, reception centre operators, guardians, social services and hotlines for missing children, from 15 countries in Europe. The expert panel taking place between 3:30-6 pm today will be open to journalists and EU decision makers. Find the programme here. Follow the training on twitter with #MissingUAC.

This training seminar hopes to share the valuable insight, research and best practice collected to build and improve processes at a national and local level. To further guide professionals, a new “Handbook of good practices for professionals working on the protection of unaccompanied children” has also been launched today.

The handbook will address some of the key challenges reported by frontline professionals during research conducted for the study. The handbook suggests strategies to prevent and respond to the disappearances of migrant children as well as after care of a child once they are found. To maximise ease of use for carers and authorities, the handbook also includes several templates and checklists, for the direct use of all those involved in the protection of an unaccompanied child.

Enabling professionals to be trained and access the necessary tools and support may mean the difference between continued exploitation and abuse or a fair chance at building a future for many of these vulnerable children.

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