I am grateful to Missing Children Europe’s members who showed amazing resilience facing the impact of COVID19, sparing no effort to adjust to this unprecedented crisis by additional services, such as chat and text functions, in order to make them safely accessible to those who could not speak freely in confinement, and this despite the crisis’ severe impact on funding. Their work and dedication are crucial for all children and families, at all times.
– Maud de Boer Buquicchio, President of Missing Children Europe and former UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

25 May marks International Missing Children’s Day, a day to raise awareness of missing children and give more than hope to their families. Today, Missing Children Europe (MCE) launches its Annual Review and Figures and Trends 2020 and encourages EU Institutions, Member States and the general public to actively raise awareness to support the 116 000 hotlines that aim to empower and protect all children and families every day.

Every year an estimated two hundred thousand children go missing in Europe. Due to the lack of comparable official statistics on missing children – the only Europe-wide report with data from authorities is outdated with figures from almost 10 years ago – it is difficult to grasp the full scope of the issue. That is why, since 2014, Missing Children Europe collects and analyses data from hotlines for missing children and the network of cross border family mediators.

In 2020, 116 000 European hotlines for missing children answered 42,662 calls covering 8857 cases (17% more than last year). The majority of new cases concerned runaways with 53%, a fourth were parental abductions and a small portion of cases reported (3,6%) concerned missing children in migration (Figure and Trends 2019 report).

Measures to limit the spread of COVID19 gravely impacted children at risk of going missing and exacerbated the challenges faced by the 116000 hotlines. 37% received more calls, and the caseload increased by 16,8% compared to last year. Hotlines had to invest in technology to offer their services remotely and develop functions such as chat options to ensure everyone had equal, and safe access to hotline services. This places an additional strain on their already limited resources.
Overall, 56% of hotlines reported that the pandemic had impacted their funding. In 2020, only 32.6% of funding for the hotlines came from national authorities, and half of the hotlines receiving funding from local and national authorities indicated that it was not sufficient to ensure the expected standard of service.

Missing Children Europe calls on the EU and Member States to improve child protection systems and meet the expectations of the EU strategy on the rights of the child to establish (where not yet available) and improve the 116 000 missing children hotlines, through stable funding, capacity building and support in developing online avenues for communication.

Learn more about the IMCD campaign here.

Read MCE’s reports:

Figures and Trends 2020Annual Review 2020

Press enquiries

For interview requests or more information please contact Jagoda Luto, Interim Communications Officer at Missing Children Europe – jagoda.luto@missingchildreneurope.eu

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 is the European federation for missing and sexually exploited children, representing 31 organisations from 26 European countries. We provide the link between research, policies, and organisations on the ground to protect children from any kind of violence, abuse or neglect that is caused by or results from them going missing.