Missing Children Europe brings attention to the insecure funding of the 116 000 European hotline by showing what children leave behind
To raise awareness of the 116 000 hotline number for missing children, Missing Children Europe recreated the number in front of the European Parliament today with donations of children’s second hand clothing, toys and books, to show what is left behind when a child goes missing. Next to drawing attention to the funding needs of the 116 000 hotline number, the installation also calls for more awareness of children who run away or are thrown out of home or care institutions. Runaways have consistently been the largest group of children going missing in Europe and constitute 57% of cases in 2017.
The installation took place on Place Luxembourg, outside the European Parliament in Brussels. All items were collected through donations from different volunteers and organisations and will be donated to Oxfam after June 6th.
Lack of financial resources is the biggest issue faced by the European hotlines for missing children, according to the new data for 2017. As allocated funding provided by the European Commission over the past decade comes to an end, Missing Children Europe are now calling on national governments to step in to provide financial support. However more than half of the hotlines report that they do not have access to funding from their national authorities, and one in six actually face opposition from their government.
Having celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2017, the 116 000 hotline, created by Missing Children Europe provides emotional, psychological, social, legal and administrative support for missing children and their families to all EU Member States as well as Serbia, Albania, Switzerland and partially in Ukraine. In 2017, they received a total of 189,054 calls related to missing children across the continent, supporting a total of 5,621 missing children.
The installation further brings attention to a group of children increasingly in need of support: runaways. They are often treated as a risk rather than at risk, yet children as young as 5 were reported as having run away to the 116 000 hotline in 2017. The percentage of children running away repeatedly has also increased to 16% in 2017 with reports of a single child running away over 40 times. Despite their vulnerability, runaways are an overlooked group of children and due to the negative perception of runaways, the issue lacks appropriate attention.
“With this campaign and event, we want to remind children and families that there is support available. In such moments of despair, no matter what language or location in Europe, parents and children can call the 116 000 hotline. We want to shed a light on the hotline number across Europe, which does crucial work to support missing children and their families.”, says Liuska Sanna, Secretary General of Missing Children Europe.
To advocate towards European Policy makers for better support and policies for runaway children, Missing Children Europe also organised a parallel event “Runaways: Unseen and unheard” at the European Parliament, to learn about concrete, local initiatives in support of runaways from various countries and to set in motion coordinated efforts involving relevant actors and stakeholders. Ben Westwood also hared his experiences of running away at the event.
Photo courtesy: Kris Van de Sande