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War on Ukraine responsible for surge in missing children cases

25th May marks International Missing Children’s Day. On this occasion, Missing Children Europe draws attention to the impact of the Russian war in Ukraine, which has put thousands of children at risk of violence, trafficking, sexual abuse and exploitation, and going missing.

Today, Missing Children Europe launches a report on children reported missing in Ukraine during the first 60 days of the war and calls on the EU and Member States to provide support and protection to all children and families (at risk of) going missing due to the war.

During the first two months of the war on Ukraine, NGO Magnolia, the 116000 hotline operator in Ukraine, recorded an enormous increase in the reports of missing children. More than 2100 cases of children going missing inside Ukraine were reported due to war related activity (compared to 182 cases reported to the hotline during peace time in 2020). Among those cases, there are 15 cross-border cases of children going missing while seeking safety in the EU. A portion of these missing cases is simply due to temporary loss of contact because of damage to infrastructure, but a significant number of cases remains unresolved.

According to the Office of the Ukrainian Ombudsman, 232 children have been killed and 427 children were injured since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The total number of Ukrainian children, who physically suffered during the conflict, is impossible to ascertain.

Despite the harsh conditions caused by the war, including no access to the office and 116 000 hotline, Ukrainian NGO Magnolia, did not stop supporting missing children and families. During the first weeks of the war, hotline operators hiding underground used their mobile phones to continue to take reports and search for missing children as well as provide emotional support to children and families.

Thanks to cross-border cooperation and the support of Missing Children Europe and its member network of 116 000 hotlines, several Ukrainian children who went missing as they were fleeing to safety in the EU, have been found safe and sound, and were reconnected to their families.

Missing Children Europe calls on Member States, and the EU, to take responsibility to ensure the protection of children’s rights both in Ukraine and in the EU to ensure all children are eventually safely reunited with their families. Investment in the capacity of the 116000 hotline in Ukraine and in neighboring countries is needed to help find all the children and families who went and still go missing due to the war.

“Hope For Children” CRC Policy Center (HFC) and the Association for the Prevention and Handling of Domestic Violence (SPAVO), as members of the MCE, operate in Cyprus the European harmonized line 116 000. The line works for the prevention and handling missing children's cases and access to support services for relatives of missing children. Finally, the line supports the coordination between authorities and NGOs at a national and international level. For the purpose of the operation of the helpline, HFC and SPAVO signed a Protocol of Cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and Public Order. 116 000 operates on a 24/7 basis.

The network of missing children hotlines is operated by national organizations 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 organizations from 26 European countries. We provide the link between research, policies, and organizations on the ground to protect children from any kind of violence, abuse or neglect that is caused by or results from them going missing.

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