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Protecting Our Future: International Missing Children’s Day in Europe

May 25 was first observed as International Missing Children’s Day (IMCD) in 2001, through the collaborative efforts of Missing Children Europe, the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), and the European Commission. It is a day dedicated to raising awareness about the issue of missing children, giving hope to families affected by these tragedies, and celebrate those who were found. Today, this date is commemorated globally by various cultures and organisations, united in the shared mission of bringing missing children home.

Every year, Europe grapples with 250,000 reports of missing children. Missing Children Europe, the European federation dedicated to missing and sexually exploited children, releases its Figures and Trends report annually on International Missing Children’s Day. This report collects and analyses data from its network of missing children hotlines to help professionals better understand the complexities of the problem and develop effective strategies to protect vulnerable children. In 2023, the 116000 European hotlines for missing children received 67,345 calls concerning 7,274  incidents of missing children

The latest cases reported in 2023 reveal that a staggering 66% featured children who either ran away or were pushed away from their homes or care institutions, highlighting their profound vulnerability. Instances of parental abductions (18%) and the disappearance of migrant children (6%), reported to the hotlines, also present troubling trends that require immediate attention and support (Figures and Trends 2023). Additionally, members of Missing Children Europe have voiced escalating apprehension regarding grooming, whether online or offline, as a significant factor driving youth to run away. Due to their greater vulnerability, these children are at risk of being sexually exploited and trafficked.

Within these figures are touching stories of missing children that affect families and communities across Europe and beyond. As International Missing Children’s Day approaches on 25th May, Missing Children Europe encourages the wider community to reflect on these stories and spread the word about this day through our “Missing Dreams” campaign.

“Missing Dreams” serves as a reminder that every child has dreams and aspirations for their future, and when a child goes missing, the lives and dreams of those children and their families are disrupted. Joining our campaign will help us ensure that no child is left behind with unfulfilled dreams. 

Missing Children Europe also coordinates the 116000 hotlines, which provide essential services such as mental health support, legal advice, and social resources. These hotlines, available 24/7, ensure that families and children facing these issues are never left to face these obstacles alone. Missing Children Europe calls on individuals, organisations, and authorities to stand in solidarity with missing children and continue to support the 116000 hotlines. Consistent funding for capacity building and improved access to hotline services are crucial steps in strengthening the effectiveness of the 116000 hotlines in protecting children across Europe.

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