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Every 2 minutes a child goes missing in Europe – Urgent call for action on World Missing Children's Day

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Each year, May 25 marks World Day for Missing Children, a day dedicated to raising awareness and informing the public about the troubling global issue of missing children and a day aimed at giving hope to their families.

The “ Hope For Children” CRC Policy Center joins its voice with the European Federation Missing Children Europe, calling on the EU and Member States to act to combat online child grooming that results in child disappearances and to ensure the continuity of the 116000 telephone lines that support missing children and their families.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of World Missing Children's Day, which was first established in the US in 1983 and then moved around the world to highlight the efforts of those working to bring missing children home, as well as the need for continued action and cooperation by individuals, law enforcement agencies and governments.

The numbers are staggering and require immediate attention

In Europe, the figures are shocking: 250,000 children go missing annually. This equates to one child disappearing every two minutes. In 2022 alone, the European helplines 116000, whose purpose is to prevent and handle disappearances, received 70,855 calls for 6,668 cases. The majority of these incidents involved children who ran away from home, accounting for 66% of the new cases reported. In addition, 24% involved parental abductions, while a small but significant percentage of 3% involved missing children during migration (Report “Figures and Trends 2022”).

But behind every statistic, lies a shocking story of a missing child, leaving a profound impact on their families and communities. Amidst this challenging landscape, 116000 helplines have emerged as a vital lifeline for those in need. These telephone lines, operated by NGOs that are members of the Missing Children Europe network, such as in Cyprus “Hope For Children” CRC Policy Center and SPAVO, are a beacon of hope, offering critical support and assistance to families and children facing the unimaginable. Available 24 hours a day, the hotlines offer a wide range of services, including psychological support, legal advice and social resources, ensuring that no family or child feels alone on their journey.

A notable example of the impact the 116000 helplines have had in the past year is their role in the war in Ukraine. Helplines, thanks to their cross-border coordination, have proven to be essential and effective in locating missing children from Ukraine. Another issue that the Missing Children Europe network is active in is researching and lobbying for policy change in dealing with online child abuse, which according to helplines is a major factor in child disappearances on the rise .

Through our participation in the Missing Children Europe network we invite individuals, organizations and authorities to unite and mobilize their members to support services for missing children and the efforts to reduce the phenomenon of grooming. We urge Member States and the European Union to take responsibility for ensuring the well-being of children. This year, there is an excellent opportunity to pass EU legislation that can combat the sexual abuse of children online. In the long term, consistency in funding, including staffing and the development of online access to helpline services is vital to improving the effectiveness of the 116000 helplines for missing children.

The European harmonized 116000 line operates in Cyprus by the “Hope For Children” CRC Policy Center in collaboration with the Association for the Prevention and Treatment of Violence in the Family (SPAVO) and have signed a Cooperation Protocol with the Ministry of Justice and Public Order for the operation of the telephone line and the Child system Alert.

Source: eurokerdos.cyprustimes.com

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