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More Than a Number: 15 years of 116 000 hotlines for Missing Children

Brussels, 14 February 2022: On 15 February, Missing Children Europe marks the 15th anniversary of 116000 hotlines which aim to provide a free and 24/7 service to children who go missing and their families. Since the launch of the number in 2007, hotline operators across Europe have answered over 2 million calls and supported more than 70 thousand cases of missing children.

“The 116 000 hotline is more than a number. The missing children hotline services play a key role in ensuring that all cases are followed-up, and that all children, as well as their parents or other caretakers, have access to free and immediate psychological, legal and administrative support. Stable funding from the Member States to support the work of the 116000 hotlines will allow our services to continue to deliver the quality services needed and are a signal of true commitment to protecting the rights of all children and preventing them from going missing.”

Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, President of Missing Children Europe

The 116 000 number is operated by national organisations specialised in dealing with missing children cases. In many countries, they are a service consisting of professionals and trained volunteers who engage in prevention and follow-up for missing children cases and who provide psychological support and legal assistance to families while the police search for their missing child. They help families navigate the complexity of the system, including the media attention that can come with a case, and cooperate closely with law enforcement, child protection services and other relevant actors. In most countries, the 116000 hotlines also offer access to their services through text-based communication platforms such as email or chat.

Missing Children Europe calls on the EU and Member States to improve child protection systems and meet the expectations of the European Electronic Communications Code and the EU strategy on the rights of the child by supporting the 116 000 missing children hotlines, through stable funding and capacity building that allows them to develop more diverse avenues for communication to make sure that the hotline is accessible for end-users with disabilities.

“Children going missing are too often going under the radar. The work that Missing Children Europe has been doing in this field since more than a decade is of great importance – to help its members build a quality 116 000 service to prevent and respond to cases of missing children. In every case of a missing child, there is a child who is a victim, who is at risk of serious violations of their rights.

Children are active members of our societies, with their own set of rights. Investing in children means investing in our future and the sustainability of our democracies. We therefore need more awareness, more visibility, better support services and coordinated responses for the tragedy of missing children at the national and European level. The Commission stands ready to join forces with Missing Children Europe and its members, to help effectively prevent and respond to this too widespread phenomenon.”

Dubravka Šuica, Vice President of the European Commission in charge of Democracy and Demography

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