Brussels, 17 November 2023 — Recognising the increased vulnerability of children during crises and in light of the recent unprecedented challenges faced by our communities in recent years, Missing Children Europe organised a groundbreaking Policy Symposium on “Multifaceted Emergency Response to children (at risk of) going missing in times of crises”. The symposium, which took place on Thursday, 16 November, at Townhall Square in Brussels, brought together multi-agency coordinating actors, frontline responders, hotlines, and policymakers from both European and international levels. The event served as a valuable platform for exchanging best practices in responding to emergency situations, outlining effective preventative measures, and discussing response methods for children at risk of going missing. 

The COVID-19 pandemic, the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, earthquakes in Turkey and Morocco, and floods in Libya and Greece have resulted in traumatic and stressful situations, leaving children at a higher risk of going missing, falling victim to trafficking, abduction, or facing other vulnerable circumstances. During times of crisis and emergency, the work of the 116 000 missing children hotlines becomes even more vital, contributing to the building of child protection services.  

Recognising this, Missing Children Europe organised its annual Policy Symposium with the goal of exploring ways to enhance crisis response coordination and bridge existing gaps in child protection mechanisms.  

The event opened with introductory remarks from Member of the European Parliament, Ljudmila Novak, who stressed the importance of including child protection measures in Member States’ emergency response plans to tackle the risks children face in times of crisis. The symposium, moderated by Missing Children Europe’s Secretary-General, Aagje Ieven, continued with presentations and discussions from  Cecilie Saenz Guerrero (UNHCR), Colleen Ryan (OSCE), Anna Schmidt (DG HOME), and Alec Wargo (NATO).  

Their contributions emphasised the need for cooperation  between multiple levels of responders, ensuring incorporation of child friendly services. The significance of timely response to crises was also underscored. It was highlighted that child hotlines play a vital role during crises, especially in scenarios involving school closures and the absence of safe spaces and peer support. The discussions also delved into the importance of innovation in child services, particularly focusing on the emergence of “chat services.” Lastly, there was a consensus on the critical need for coordination and early planning in crisis situations. 

 NGOs can often respond more swiftly in certain emergency situations than Intergovernmental organisations due to the institutional structures in place. Therefore, there is a crucial need for cooperation to ensure a coordinated and efficient response. Building connections with NGOs and involving them in preparation exercises, maintaining a roster of experts and crisis response teams, are vital steps to provide necessary protection mechanisms with the highest degree of readiness possible. 


Press enquiries 

Patricia Morais, Communications Officer at Missing Children Europe, 


Notes to Editors 

The network of missing children hotlines is operated by national organisations in 32 countries in Europe. Children and families calling the 116 000 European hotline for missing children receive free and immediate emotional, psychological, social, legal, and administrative support 24/7. They also provide a vital central contact and coordination point for cases that are cross-border. 


About Missing Children Europe 

Missing Children Europe represents 32 Non-Governmental Organisations active in 27 countries across Europe for the prevention, protection and support of missing and sexually exploited children and their families. We provide the link between research, policies, and organisations on the ground to protect children from any form of violence, abuse, or neglect that is caused by or results from them going missing. Missing Children Europe coordinates the network of 116000 hotlines for missing children, and the network of cross border family mediators and facilitates coordination of cases that involve cross-border issues, ensuring that vulnerable children receive the help they need no matter where they are in Europe.