3 measures to prevent children from going missing for European leaders to implement now

Brussels, Belgium – 24 May 2019

May 25th marks International Missing Children’s Day, a day to raise awareness of missing children and give hope to the families they leave behind. In 2018 alone, the 116 000 European hotline for missing children answered over 91,650 calls, with 5% of these calls relating to the prevention of child disappearance. This year, Missing Children Europe encourages Europeans to vote for candidates who will advocate for the rights of missing children and do more to prevent children from going missing.

“Children often go missing for reasons linked to violence, abuse or neglect. We can protect children from further violence by focusing our efforts on supporting and empowering them before they go missing. By prioritising prevention, we can reach children before they are impacted by the short- and long-term psychological, physical and sexual trauma that may result from their disappearance.”
Aagje Ieven, Secretary General of Missing Children Europe

Missing Children Europe further urges newly elected European leaders to implement the following three concrete measures during their upcoming parliamentary term to reduce how many children go missing across Europe:
1. Prevent children from running away by ensuring the continuation of the 116 000 hotlines. The 116 000 hotlines provide free, essential emotional, administrative and legal support to children who are considering running away from their homes or care institutions. Last year, hotlines supported 2 831 cases related to runaway prevention, but these same hotlines ranked a lack of financial resources as their main challenge. In order to secure this vital service for children, Missing Children Europe urges European leaders to monitor that the European Electronic Communications Code recast, which asks national governments to make every effort to ensure the visibility, financial resources and quality services of the missing children hotlines, is indeed implemented.
2. Prevent unaccompanied children from going missing in the context of migration by swiftly appointing qualified, trained and independent guardians to advocate for them. 30,000 children have gone missing in the context of migration between 2014-2017. This is in part due to the poor conditions in some reception centres, and the lack of child-friendly information about their rights, options and protection procedures. Guardians represent, assist and support unaccompanied children by safeguarding their best interests and wellbeing. In some countries, guardians also provide for the child’s basic needs and assist them in asylum and family tracing procedures. By ensuring that guardians are qualified, trained and appointed swiftly, European leaders can build trust with these children and help prevent them from going missing.

3. Prevent parental abductions by promoting cross-border family mediation as an alternative to legal proceedings. In 2018, parental abductions made up 19.2% of missing children cases reported to hotlines. When an international family conflict escalates, it can lead to an international child abduction. The cross-border family mediation process helps parents solve the underlying family conflict that may lead them to abduct their child to another country. Because mediated agreements are tailored to the specific family situation, parents are more likely to respect the agreement and it is therefore more sustainable over the long-term. Mediation also leads to increased wellbeing for both parents and children. European leaders can prevent international child abduction by promoting mediation within European laws and processes as an alternative solution to court proceedings in the resolution of family conflict.

Notes to Editors
  • Runaways make up the largest group of missing children. In 2018, 58.2% of missing children reported to 116 000 hotlines were runaways in Europe. Runaway children also faced the majority of violence among missing children cases reported, with 1 359 children being affected.
  • According to the European Migration Network's report published in July 2018, more than 30,000 unaccompanied children went missing between 2014 and 2017.
  • An international parental abduction occurs when one parent or person with parental authority takes their child to another country without the permission of the other parent or person with parental authority. This is the second most common reason for a child going missing in Europe.

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