Around one hundred children go missing in Serbia every year, the greatest number of reports being filed in the capital city of Belgrade. Seeking to improve the system of protection of missing children in the country, Serbian Minister of Interior and president of ASTRA signed a Memorandum of Understanding. By doing so, MoI and ASTRA showed initiative to improve mutual cooperation through joint activities and contribute to capacity building in the field of children protection in the Republic of Serbia.
Even though most cases involve children who got lost or deliberately fled their homes, and who safely return shortly after their disappearance, being away from parents/caretakers makes children more vulnerable to violence, abuse, exploitation and human trafficking. Only in 2013, ASTRA has received 110 calls via harmonized European Number for Missing Children that pertained to disappearance of 25 children. One of the cases registered was parental abduction. Search for this child is still ongoing and actors involved come from 20 European Countries.
Memorandum signing between the police and ASTRA is going to contribute to greater efficacy in practice in missing children cases. Namely, apart from hitherto exchange of data collected via European Missing Children Hotline, these actors are going to work together on development of standard and operational instructions concerning immediate response of the police in missing children cases. Since number 116-000 is functional in 27 European countries and that organizations that run the hotline have standard procedures of support in international searches, this cooperation will be of particular use when children gone missing are suspected to be transported to another European country.
ASTRA introduced the harmonized European Number for Missing Children in 2012. Thusly, Serbia became the first country outside the European Union where this service is available to parents and children 24/7. All calls to #116-000 are free of charge for citizens using landline, Vip, Telenor or MTS services.