Campaign launched to address plight of missing children

A new campaign has been launched to improve EU-wide data collection on missing children.

The initiative has been started by Missing Children Europe, the organization that coordinates the efforts across Europe to help missing and sexually exploited children.

It has just published its annual “Figure and Trends” report which collects and analyses data and statistics from hotlines for missing children across Europe.

This is available through the 116 000 number and a network of cross-border family mediators.

The report is the only annually updated research that reviews cases of missing children and aims to better understand the challenges, the evolving nature of the problem and new trends.

But the organization says that in order to tackle the various issues involved there is a need for more comprehensive data on missing children at EU level.

Lisa Bronselaer, of Brussels-based Missing Children Europe, said, “It has been about 4 years that we have produced a dedicated report on the annual data and have received a lot of positive feedback on producing this data.”

She added, “However, the hotlines are only able to provide some of this data and only show a part of the issue. Therefore, we want to now work on improving the data collection process.”

It has launched a survey  of all interested stakeholders in a bid to know how things can be improved.

The organization says that the scale of the problem shows the importance of improving data.

According to Missing Children Europe,a child is reported missing every 2 minutes in Europe.

Its network of missing children hotlines is operated by national organisations in 32 countries in Europe and 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.

Its activities have partly focused on improving the quality of services provided by the 19 hotlines across Europe.

A Missing Children Europe spokesman said, “Meeting these quality criteria will ensure that children and families anywhere in Europe will have access to the same quality of support when faced with the unthinkable.”

The spokesman outlined the reasons why their work is considered so important, for example, in the case of family breakdowns.

“When a marriage breaks down, it is often the children who suffer the most. Financial hardship, acrimonious court battles and on-going conflict over custody arrangements can have a lasting effect on the well-being of any children involved. It becomes especially difficult and complex when the parents have ties in different countries. In the EU, 140,000 international couples file for divorce every year.”

Missing Children Europe says that international child abductions or parental abductions represent a growing number of missing children cases. These are cases where a child is taken to or kept in a country other than that of their normal residence by one parent against the will of the other parent or other person with parental authority. In 2016, the last year for which reliable data on this is available, the network of missing children hotlines reported that 23% of missing children cases were due to parental abductions. Of those cases, up to 55% were across national borders.

The spokesman said, “Children tell us that they find the court process particularly difficult and upsetting. We are now working to produce guidelines, tools and to deliver training for lawyers, judges, legal professionals and mediators to ensure that a child can have their say in the decision making process (whether in court or via mediation) in a way that does not impact their well-being negatively.

“We want to ensure that children will be properly communicated with and given understanding of the proceedings, outcomes and reasons for a court decision.”

The organization, which represents 31 groups from 27 EU countries, is also looking for participants to take part in the Brussels marathon on 28 October.  Anyone interested is asked to contact them on 02 894 7486.

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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