Belgrade, 25th of May – In regard to the International Day of Missing Children, 25th of May, it is our pleasure to announce that the Republic Agency for Electronic Communication (RATEL) has assigned #116000 – The European Hotline Number for Missing Children to NGO ASTRA – Anti Trafficking Action, based on decision # 1-01-345-20/12-1 made on 17th of May. Thereby, this service, functioning in 16 European countries, will be available in Serbia soon, making our country the first non EU country where the harmonized European Hotline Number for Missing Children operates. The initiative for introducing this number is the product of cooperation of NGO ASTRA and the Southeastern European Centre for Missing and Exploited Children based in Athens, Greece.
The hotline number is dedicated to providing assistance to parents/guardians and the missing children themselves through receiving missing children reports, passing the repots to the police and assistance to the police in the investigation process. In completing these tasks NGOs that run #116000 – the European Hotline Number for Missing Children are cooperating with one another, the police and other organizations committed to aiding and solving cases of missing children. International cooperation in this area is of particular utility, since the absence of the former forms of border control between the EU countries facilitates the transport of missing children from one member state to another. Consequently, children are less likely to be found. After visa liberalization with EU the problem has become topical in Serbia as well.
The Hotline Number for Missing Children will be available 24/7. The calls will be answered by ASTRA’s current consultants who are trained to provide support to the parents of missing children, gather information from citizens about the missing children cases and, given the parental consent, pass the information to the police and other institutions in charge.
Apart from helping the police in investigation, ASTRA will also provide psychological and other forms of assistance to the parents/guardians of the missing child, and refer them and help them in communication with relevant institutions and organizations. This is very important when the child has gone missing on the territory of a foreign country, due to the language barrier and inability of parents to obtain information and communicate with the police in the country where their child might be located. Different forms of assistance will also be available for the children once they are found and returned to their families.
In Serbia about hundred cases of missing children are reported on annual basis. Nonetheless, according to the current official procedure, search order is issued 24 hours after the person is gone missing, despite the fact that research has shown that the first couple of hours are crucial for successful finding of a missing person. For this reason having a hotline service available to parents throughout Europe and reachable on the same number in different countries, which ensures momentary action in the case of child’s disappearance, is of great significance.
In the process of introducing the European Hotline Number for Missing Children, NGO ASTRA was supported by Vip Mobile Company through New Year’s donation of 2 million RSD. Part of this donation money was used for purchase of a modern telephone exchange necessary for the parallel functioning of two hotline numbers – the European Hotline Number for Missing Children and ASTRA SOS Hotline Number specialized in human trafficking.
For over a decade, NGO ASTRA successfully runs ASTRA SOS Hotline Number, as a part of the Direct Victim Assistance Program. Searches for the people who might be missing in the human trafficking ring, in cooperation with the police, are an important segment of our work. Due to a ramified network of associate organizations throughout the world and the possibility of informal and quick communication between non-governmental organizations, uncharacteristic of the police and other state institutions bound by bureaucratic procedures, ASTRA was often in position to identify, find and move victims of human trafficking to a secure place.
By adding #116000 – the European Hotline Number for Missing Children to the list of our activities, NGO ASTRA is actively contributing to strengthening of the capacities for the fight against the phenomenon of missing children on national, regional and international level.