Runaways: UNSEEN and UNHEARD: What’s left behind when… a child runs away?

“It wasn’t nice in the institution. They were always yelling. I was always fighting with one of the girls in my group. So eventually I preferred going to A.. I didn’t think about anything. Ok, I had to sleep with men but I didn’t feel any particular way about it because I was under the influence of drugs.”

-       18 year old girl runaway, living in an institution

Every year, May 25 commemorates International Missing Children’s Day across the world since the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz in New York City on the same date in 1979. In Europe, a child goes missing every 2 minutes.  This year, Missing Children Europe needs your help to highlight the largest group of missing children: runaway children by hosting a symposium and collecting donations of children’s clothes, toys and books that will be used to trace out the 116 000 number in front of the European Parliament.

In 2017, cases relating to 5271 missing children were reported to 116 000, the European hotline for missing children. 3017 of those were runaways, making up the largest category of missing children cases reported to the network of hotlines operated through the 116 000 number. 

When a child goes missing, it puts them at serious risk of harm, exploitation, sleeping rough and stealing or begging to survive. For those who loved and cared for these children, all they are left with is anxiety, grief and memories. That’s when the network of hotlines steps in, providing missing children and their families with emotional, psychological, social and legal support at a time when they need it most. With the percentage of runaways increasing yearly, the hotline’s role has never been more important in preventing and supporting this vulnerable often unheard group of children.

On June 6th, Missing Children Europe hosted an event at the European Parliament with MEP Julie Ward to better understand trends related to runaways and other groups of missing children through the data collected annually by Missing Children Europe though the 116 000 hotline network; to learn about concrete, local initiatives in support of runaways from various countries and to set in motion a coordinated action involving relevant actors and stakeholders. You can find the programme below. 

On the same day, Missing Children Europe constructed a large-scale installation to show what’s left behind when a child runs away, and to highlight the important work done by the hotline in supporting those in this difficult situation. To raise awareness of the European hotline number for missing children available in all EU Member States through the 116 000 number, Missing Children Europe organised a stunt in front of the European Parliament for the occasion.

Thank you for helping us bring children to safety!



12:00- 13:30

Awareness action (location Place du Luxembourg)


MEPs photo moment at awareness action 

(location Place du Luxembourg)


Arrival of participants: registration & security clearance at the European Parliament


Welcoming address

Julie Ward, MEP


Understanding the issue

Liuska Sanna, Missing Children Europe: Insights on the data and issue of missing children with a focus on runaways from our Figures and Trends report 2017


Testimonial by Ben Westwood, Poet (ex-runaway)


Example of responses from the field

3 Missing Children Europe members/116 000 hotlines present initiatives:

- Maryna Lypovetska, Magnolia, Ukraine

- Janina Dienaite, Missing Persons’ Families Support Centre, Lithuania

- Maria João Cosme & Paula Paçó, Instituto de Apoio à Criança, Portugal


Strengthening Policies and Child protection systems

Margaret Tuite, DG Justice


Q&A and discussions


Closing remarks

MEP Intergroup on Children’s Rights, TBC


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