Caught in the middle: Children abducted by a parent make up 23% of missing children cases

8 June 2017: “After 3 months I was finally able to return to my father in the Netherlands, but everything changed drastically from that point on. A child loses both parents when there is a parental abduction. My mother, who abducted me, faded from my life and the relationship with my father was never the same”, Thomas, an 18 year old boy who was abducted when he was 10 years old1.

A child is reported missing every 2 minutes in the EU. 23% of the disappearances reported to hotlines for missing children concern children abducted by a parent. Some 2.1 million marriages take place in the EU each year, of which 1 in 12 are mixed marriages. Of these, 1 million couples file for divorce annually.

When a cross-border family conflict escalates, it can lead to a child abduction. A study by Child Focus (Belgium) found that 64% of left behind parents have no contact with the abducted child during the abduction.

Missing Children Europe coordinates the network of Cross-Border Family Mediators. This network brings together 157 bi-cultural family mediators from 37 countries specifically trained in dealing with cross-border family conflicts including parental abduction. The mediators are specialised in preventing and resolving cases dealing with international child abduction, cross-border visitation rights and international relocation.

study by the European Parliament found that using mediation in conflict resolution is both 60% cheaper and more time effective (average 43 days compared to 18 months) than court proceedings. Additionally, mediated agreements are more sustainable than solutions imposed by the court and therefore better for children. Last year, the network of Cross-Border Family Mediators dealt with an average of 2.5 cross-border family mediation cases per mediator. Of these mediations, almost two-third (62%) resulted in a (partial or full) mediation agreement. Despite its huge benefits, mediation remains relatively unknown by the general public.

To raise awareness of parental abduction and mediation, a symposium “Caught in the middle” will be organised at the European Parliament on June 8thto connect the dots between mediators, policy makers, legal professionals, hotlines for missing children etc. on issues related to parental abductions/cross-border family conflicts and to celebrate the 5 year anniversary of the Cross-Border Family Mediators’ network. Experts will discuss latest data on missing children and child abductions, the revision of the Regulation BXL IIa, the use of preventive SIS alerts for missing children and new models of cooperation between legal and other professionals involved in cross-border family disputes.

For more statistics and trends on parental abductions and other missing children cases, read our Figures and Trends on missing children report for 2016 here.

What is mediation and how does it work? Watch the video here.

1. Personal details have been altered to protect the identity of the child.

Photos from the event can be found here.

Watch the Caught in the Middle event video with interviews of experts below:
Caught in the middle Symposium: The role of mediation 
Caught in the middle: What is the role of the EP mediator in cases of parental abduction?
Caught in the middle: How often do parental abductions happen and why is mediation a good solution?  
Caught in the middle: Why the European Commission supports mediation in cases of parental abduction? 
Caught in the middle: What is the Cross-Border Family Mediator network and how does mediation work? 
Caught in the middle: Why MEP Hilde Vautmans supports mediation? 
Caught in the middle: How can Missing Children Europe influence policy to better protect children?


Missing Children Europe brings together 29 grassroots NGOs in 26 countries in Europe to work towards the prevention and protection of children who go missing and are sexually exploited.

Missing Children Europe also coordinates a network of 157 trained bi-cultural family mediators who specialise in supporting parents find an agreeable solution in cases of international family conflicts.

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