Over the past few years, the phenomenon of migrant children going missing has increasingly been in the focus of public attention in the European Union as one of the most pressing issues in the migrant crisis. On Sunday, 18 April, Lost in Europe, the cross-border journalism project investigating the disappearance of child migrants in Europe, revealed the latest numbers of missing migrant children in Europe. Data from the research association shows that between 2018-2020, 18,292 children in migration went missing in Europe.

What does it mean in practice?

The previous report developed by European Migration Network stated that between 2014 and 2017, over 30,000 migrant children slipped through the protection systems in Europe. At the first sight, the current numbers are lower, but if we take into consideration the migration stream during the outbreak of the European migration crisis and the current numbers of children crossing EU borders, the picture drastically changes.

The analysis and comparison of this data is a complex exercise: not all unaccompanied children apply for asylum when in Europe (Eurostat numbers refer to asylum applicants only) and not all missing unaccompanied children were asylum applicants. Plus, as indicated by Lost in Europe, data on disappearance from national sources is far from being perfectly accurate. However, these numbers are still important to understand the scale of the problem and the urgency to protect children at risk.

Children in migration continued to disappear from shelters during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

For the past year, only 10 out of 27 EU countries provided figures. This means that the actual number of missing children in migration could be much higher than the calculated 18,292. Several countries, including France and Romania, did not register missing migrant children in 2020. Figures from only 10 out of 27 European member states show that 5,768 underaged asylum seekers disappeared in 2020.

Not all European countries keep track of where the minors come from. However, the existing data shows that the main countries of origin that are registered are Morocco, Algeria, Eritrea, Guinea and Afghanistan.

What is needed to improve prevention and response to the disappearance of migrant children?
  • Solid and efficient procedures to obtain international protection or family reunification
  • Stronger integrated child protection systems
  • Systematic risk assessments and best interest assessments, leading to the swift development of an individual care plan
  • Reporting of all disappearances of children in migration and clear and transparent procedures for follow up and multi-agency coordination
  • More training to law enforcement, migration authorities, health operators and social services on the recognition of indicators of exploitation and trafficking
  • Access to trained guardians within 24h for all unaccompanied children
How does Missing Children Europe improve prevention and response to the disappearance of migrant children?

Among our most recent work:

Empowering young children on the move

With the Miniila app, a digital tool that empowers children on the move to take essential decisions for their future in an informed manner. Miniila gives children access to child friendly and up to date information on their rights and dedicated services such as shelter, food, and health in eight European countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom) and in five languages (English, French, Arabic, Farsi and Tigrinya). See what Taj, Yoones, Yacouba and Saikou think about Miniila.

Supporting frontline professional in case management

An increasing number of unaccompanied children are targeted by traffickers and become a victim of labour and sexual exploitation, before coming to Europe and within Europe. Nevertheless, too often, cases concerning children in migration are missing or are not followed up. They are given low to no priority from authorities and law enforcements.  Missing Children Europe’s INTERACT project, developed an innovative methodology to test practices and procedures for multi-agency collaboration at national and cross-border level. One of the outcomes of this work is the Practical guidance on preventing and responding to trafficking and disappearances of children in migration, available in multiple languages.

Advocating EU and national decision makers

Missing Children Europe coordinates the Initiative for Children in Migration, together with PICUM and Child Circle. This initiative is an informal collaboration between more than 100 migration, asylum and child protection actors from European and national levels, deeply involved in joint advocacy work around EU law and policy. The Initiative for Children in Migration regularly collaborates with EU Institutions and key stakeholders and has developed resources to support EU and national advocacy (available at www.childreninmigration.eu).

Raising awareness and challenging narratives

We have reached 800K people through our Tiny and Apollo campaign.