25% of missing children cases are cross-border in nature

Brussels, 25 May, 2015 - New data released[1] by Missing Children Europe on the European missing children hotline available through the telephone number 116 000 in 29 countries reveals a 200% increase in the number of calls received since 2012.

The 116 000 European missing children hotline network saw a 21% increase in the number of missing children cases handled in 2014 compared to 2013[2]. Children running away from home or care institutions continue to be the largest group of missing children reported making up 51% of cases. 7,3% of these children had runaway between 2-5 times in the same year.

37% of missing children reported to the hotline involved children abducted by a parent or legal guardian. 60% of these cases were international in nature. Other groups of missing children such as lost, injured or otherwise missing children, missing unaccompanied migrant children and criminal abductions make up 10%, 1% and 2% of missing children cases reported to the 116 000 hotline..

An overall 25% of missing children cases in 2014 concerned cross-border or international missing children cases, with 79% being intra EU and 6% concerning North Africa.

Referring to the newly released missing children data report, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, President of Missing Children Europe and United Nations Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography stated, “Children running away from care institutions are specifically vulnerable to exploitation, as are children who escape from abuse in their homes. Unaccompanied migrant children continue to go missing from reception centres in different EU Member States and rarely find their way to support services, and risk to fall victim to exploitation by unscrupulous criminal networks. Family break downs in particular of international families increasingly result in one of the parents abducting the child to another country, and preventing contact between the child and the parent left behind. These issues need to be addressed urgently by the creation of preventive mechanisms including effective law enforcement, and child friendly helplines and hotlines.”

Hotlines also reported that up to 67% of the missing children for which cases were opened by a hotline in 2014 were found within the same year.

This missing children data will be shared on 25 May as part of several awareness raising campaigns in support of International Missing Children’s day. International Missing Children's day, is commemorated on May 25th around the world since 1983, in memory of 6-year-old Etan Patz who went missing on his way to school on May 25th 1979. The day sends a message of hope to families affected by child disappearances, and raises awareness about the problem, using the ‘forget-me-not’ flower as its symbol.

Missing Children Europe will also be organising several other efforts to raise awareness of the issue and the 116 000 European hotline together with its members including a round table and photo exhibition at the European Parliament. The round table will bring together families who have been affected by child disappearances, EU policy makers and key practitioners to discuss the Missing Children Memorandum put together by Missing Children Europe and its members. This Memorandum offers recommendations on effective ways to tackle the issue of missing children. The event will be attended by members of Missing Children Europe’s Patrons’ Council, including Her Majesty Queen Paola, Her Excellency Marie Louise Coleiro Preca (President of Malta) and Mrs. Barroso. See pictures from the event here.

A photo exhibition "Missing children: Out of focus" presenting 3 real stories of missing children will also be showcased at the European Parliament between May 25-29th to raise awareness of the issue of missing children. In this exhibition, Photographer Natalie Hill, attempts to highlight the real issues of missing children through taking out of focus shots of their experiences. The exhibition hopes to drive home an important message: that the phenomena of missing children is often unclear or 'out of focus' due to its complexity. Most children do not go missing in isolated situations. Rather, the phenomenon is linked very closely to several causes and consequences including sexual exploitation and abuse, conflict, neglect, poverty, bullying, grooming, trafficking, labour exploitation etc. The exhibition will also launch Missing Children Europe's new video highlighting the cross border nature of the issue. Check out pictures from the event here.

Other efforts include a social media thunderclap campaign supported by over 400 people who donated their Tweets, Facebook and Tumblr posts. On May 25th at 5:30 pm CEST, the same message to #Save116000 the European missing children hotline number in people's phones was sent out via all supporters' in honour of International Missing Children’s day.

[1] Data recording and collection practices vary across organisations and EU member state and have an impact on the uniformity and comparability of data provided. 

[2] Missing children data and figures were received from 25 organisations handling the 116 000 hotline in 2013 compared with 27 organisations in 2014.

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