On the occasion of its 20th anniversary, Missing Children Europe honoured Her Majesty Queen Paola of Belgium for her extraordinary commitment to the cause. For 20 years members across Europe have been striving to find missing children and fight against their sexual exploitation. What started off with enthusiastic attempts to work together and speak the same language has evolved into a stable and effective structure for ongoing cross-border cooperation and exchange. The organisation dedicated its 20th anniversary to the Ukrainian children being forcibly deported to Russia.

Founded in 2001, Missing Children Europe’s mission is to enable professionals to better protect children from going missing. The organisation coordinates the network of 116000 missing children hotlines, and the network of cross border family mediators.

On November 15, Missing Children Europe celebrated its 20th anniversary with a High-level dinner at the Palace of Charles de Lorraine in Brussels. During the ceremony, the organisation honoured Her Majesty Queen Paola of Belgium, Honorary President of Missing Children Europe’s Patrons’ Council, for her outstanding devotion and support to the cause of missing children, raising public awareness of the cause on important occasions. Her Majesty Queen Paola was joined by Her Majesty the Queen of the Belgians and His Majesty King Albert II of Belgium. In her speech, Her Majesty Queen Paola announced that she will be passing the torch to Her Majesty the Queen in 2023.

“Missing Children Europe is grateful to Her Majesty Queen Paola for the important legacy she leaves and is delighted to welcome Her Majesty the Queen as the new Honorary President of the Patrons’ Council as of January 1st.”

-Aagje Ieven, Secretary General of Missing Children Europe.

Missing Children Europe took the opportunity of the celebration to acknowledge the contributions of several of its long standing members to the cause of missing: its first president, the late Baron Daniel Cardon de Lichtbuer, founding member Annie Gourgue from La Mouette, Heidi de Pauw from Child Focus, Costas Yannopoulos from the Smile of the Child and Prof. Ernesto Caffo from Telefono Azurro. It also paid tribute to Marina Lypovetska from NGO Magnolia Ukraine for her tireless work supporting families of missing children during the war on Ukraine. The anniversary celebrations were attended by Vice President of the European Commission, Her Excellency Dubravka Šuica, Vice President of the European Parliament, Her Excellency Eva Kaili, and the Ambassador of Ukraine to the EU, His Excellency Vsevolod Chentsov.

Twenty years have passed, and many children have been brought home or saved from situations of abuse. Since the launch of the 116000 number in 2007, hotline operators across Europe have answered over 2 million calls and supported more than 70 thousand cases of missing children.

But the work is never done. The war on Ukraine and the expansion of the internet with both its opportunities and risks of harm for children are just two of the more recent challenges that need tackling. Missing Children Europe aspires to continue its work to better protect and empower children through research, training, advocacy, and awareness raising.

“We are proud to dedicate Missing Children Europe’s 20th Anniversary to the Ukrainian children who are being forcibly displaced to Russia. Amnesty International is calling these disappearances a war crime. We appeal to the European institutions to advocate for their safe return.

-Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, President of Missing Children Europe.

Press enquiries

For interview requests or more information please contact Patricia Morais, Communications Officer at Missing Children Europe – patricia.morais@missingchildreneurope.eu