International Missing Children’s day 2016: Sounding the alarm for an invisible group of missing children
Over 209 000 calls were received by the European network of hotlines for missing children in 2015. Of these the largest groups of missing children included children running away or pushed out of home (54%) and children abducted by a parent following a family conflict (29%). While the disappearance of unaccompanied migrant children make up a deceptively low percentage of calls to the hotlines (2%), these numbers indicate another disconcerting aspect of the issue - underreporting of the disappearances of a specifically vulnerable group of children.
Europol has claimed that at least 10 000 unaccompanied children have disappeared after reaching the EU. Hotlines for missing children reveal that these children go missing from the age of 4. Many of these children are feared to have ended up as victims of trafficking, labour and sexual exploitation, forced begging and drug smuggling. Missing unaccompanied children represent a major challenge in the ongoing migrant crisis.
This International Missing Children’s day, commemorated on the 25th of May across the world, Missing Children Europe stands up for the thousands of unaccompanied children who continue to arrive and go missing within hours of being placed in reception centres in Europe. Many of these children are desperately trying to reach family from whom they have been separated.
Several awareness raising efforts will be launched this week to help change attitudes and increase support towards all groups of missing children. An event is being organised by Missing Children Europe and MEP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt at the European Parliament between 13:30 and 15:00 today, calling on Member States to adopt necessary legislation and to step up cooperation to protect all missing children with a focus on urgent measures needed for unaccompanied children. In particular EU leaders will be encouraged to discuss the Dublin review and how best to uphold the best interest of the child in decisions on international protection.
Missing Children Europe’s Annual Report and Data Report on the figures and trends of the different groups of missing children have also been launched today.
Missing Children Europe represents a network of 29 NGOs in 24 countries and provides the link between research, policy and organisations on the ground to protect children from any kind of violence, abuse or neglect that is caused by or results from them going missing. As a network we provide free 24/7 expert support in all cases of missing children, including those who go missing in the context of migration (unaccompanied migrant children). Our activities include co-ordinating the hotlines for missing children, running the cross-border family mediators’ network and developing tools to reduce the number of unaccompanied migrant children who go missing.