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 hotlines for missing children answered on a European level over 91,650 calls, with 5% of these calls relating to the prevention of child disappearance. This year, “Hope For Children” CRC Policy Center, endorsing Missing Children Europe’s initiative, encourages Europeans to vote for candidates who will advocate for the rights of missing children and do more to prevent children from going missing.
In Cyprus, the European Missing Children Hotline 116000 is operated by “Hope For Children" CRC Policy Center (HFC) and the Association for the Prevention and Handling of Violence in the Family (SPAVO), both organizations being official members of the Missing Children Europe. The two organizations also provide the mediation service which aims at the prevention of parental abductions and it is provided completely free by trained professionals of HFC and SPAVO.
According to the Director-General of Hope For Children, Joseph Borghese: “The European Hotline for Missing Children and the services provided in the context of this hotline are implemented only through the own resources of HFC and SPAVO, since the two organizations do not receive any funding on a national or European level”.
“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.
Thus, we urge 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:
- Prevent children from running away by ensuring the continuation of the 116 000 hotlines. The 116000 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.
- 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 in Europe, 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.
- 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.
For more information please contact the European Hotline for Missing Children 116000 or “Hope For Children” CRC Policy Center at 22103234.