Missing Children Europe

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Missing Children Europe
Missing Children Europe logo.png
Founded 2001
Type Charity
Focus Missing and sexually exploited children
  • Brussels, Belgium
Area served
Product 116 000 European missing children hotline
Slogan Together, we can create a safer Europe for children.
Website www.missingchildreneurope.eu, www.europeanfinancialcoalition.eu, www.notfound.org

Missing Children Europe is the European federation for missing and sexually exploited children. They represent a network of 30 NGOs in 25 countries. Their mission is to enable the development of effective and holistic child protection systems to:

  • prevent children from going missing,
  • support missing children and their families, and
  • protect children from any risk of violence and abuse that may lead to or result from going missing.

It is an organisation which aims to ensure that every EU member state has the necessary procedures and regulations in place to deal with cases of missing and/or sexually exploited children, and are able to both provide support for the victims, and take steps to prevent future disappearances.[1]

Every two minutes, a child is reported missing in the EU. The cause as well as the effect of the disappearance may include situations of violence and abuse, including sexual exploitation. Missing Children Europe’s vision is that all children should be able to rely on an effective and holistic systems of child protection, where all measures are taken to empower and protect them from any situation of harm.

Maud de Boer-Buquicchio is the president of Missing Children Europe. She served as Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe between 2002-2012 and is currently the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.


Missing Children Europe was established in 2001 by Child Focus (Belgium), La Mouette (France), Aurora (Italy), Initiative Vermisste Kinder (Germany) and Rat auf Draht (Austria). Missing Children Europe gained financial independence in 2008, as it obtained a grant from the European Commission.

Missing Children Europe was the driving force behind the launch of 116 000, an emergency hotline number which provides immediate support when children go missing in Europe.[2]

Categories and definitions of missing children[edit]

  • Runaways: Children running away from home or from the institution in which they are placed, often to escape situations of conflict, neglect or abuse. Other children will run away from home because they are bullied in school, or feel generally unhappy about their live. Overall, more children run away from care institutions than from a family setting. Many times runaways end up sleeping on the streets in very vulnerable situations with greater risk of exploitation and abuse. 1 in 6 runaways are assumed to rough sleep, 1 in 8 resort to stealing to survive and 1 in 12 children are at serious risk of some form of abuse.

> Runaways constitute 50% of the missing children reported to 116 000 hotlines in 2013.

  • National or international parental abduction: These children have been abducted by one parent following a divorce or breakup of the couple. In most cases, one of the parents – often the mother – will take the child back to his / her home country. The child is in this case deprived of his/her right to maintain contact with both parents. While this form of abduction may seem relatively safe, this is not always the case and this is a complicated issue to resolve as it often involves several countries, cultures and a breakdown of communication between guardians. Parental abductions can be very difficult to resolve and traumatising for the child.

> A total of 36% of cases dealt with by 116 000 hotlines in 2013 were cases of international parental abductions.

  • Missing unaccompanied migrant minors: This group includes the disappearances of migrant children who have been separated from both parents and are not being cared for by an adult in charge of his care. These children often arrive from countries such as Afghanistan or Syria. Many times escaping war, poverty and abuse, they are put in reception centres upon their arrival into the EU. Many countries have different laws for children who are citizens as compared to migrant minors and often even less is done to prevent or support missing unaccompanied migrant minors who have not applied for asylum. These particularly vulnerable group of missing children often fall victim to human traffickers who exploit them for the purpose of begging, forced labour or sexual exploitation and prostitution. On average, ½ of the unaccompanied migrant children placed in certain reception centres in the EU go missing within the first 48 hours upon arrival.

> 2% of the cases dealt with by missing children hotlines were of unaccompanied migrant children in 2013.

  • Abduction by a third person: This group includes children who are abducted by a stranger. Many of these cases have very severe – and sometimes fatal – endings.

> 2% of the cases dealt with by missing children hotlines were criminal abductions in 2013.

  • Lost, injured or otherwise missing children: This category includes the disappearances of children for no apparent reason who get lost (e.g. little children at the seaside in summer) or hurt themselves and cannot be found immediately (e.g. accidents during sport activities, at youth camps, etc.), as well as children whose reason for disappearing has not been determined.

> 10% of the cases dealt with by 116 000 missing children hotlines were lost, injured or otherwise missing children in 2013.

116 000 missing children hotline[edit]

116 000 is the European hotline number for missing children: through this number parents and children alike, whether at home or in another European country, can get free emotional, psychological, social, legal and administrative support. The service works in complementarity with law enforcement, and helps runaway kids and families of missing children during the extremely stressful event of a child disappearance.

The 116 000 hotline is now operational in 27 EU Member States as well as Serbia and Albania. It is currently also operational on mobile networks in Ukraine. In 20 Member States, the hotline is run by a member of Missing Children Europe. The countries operating the 116 000 hotline include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands, United Kingdom. Finland is currently the only member state without a 116 000 missing children hotline.

Research shows that the first hours after the disappearance of a child are of vital importance. Having such “an easy to remember” telephone number at the disposal of parents across Europe is therefore extremely important so immediate action can be taken by the responsible local authorities.

The visual representation created by Missing Children Europe for the 116000 European network of missing children hotlines.

NotFound project[edit]

The NotFound project[3][4] is an award-winning initiative that allows anyone with a website to replace their website '404 Error page' with posters of missing children cases. By doing so, useless “404 error, page not found” pages are used to communicate about missing children increasing the awareness of the public about these missing children and improving the possibility of finding them.[5]

The process is very simple: embed the downloadable code in your website. Afterwards, every person who gets a 404 error on your website will automatically see a picture of a missing child (sometimes computer-aged into an adult) with relevant information in the most appropriate of available languages. It’s an easy and effective way of raising awareness, in a controlled manner, on worrying disappearances of children. Since its launch in 2012, over 4,200 websites have integrated the app into their websites, and over 13 million missing children posters have gone live – more than 40,000 every day.[citation needed]

“I was sitting at home, where many of the best ideas are born,” explains Laurent Dochy, digital creative director at Famous. “My girlfriend was watching a police TV show about missing people. At the same time I was browsing online and a 404 error page came up. I looked at the TV screen, then back at the error page… and I realised that missing people and not found pages could be combined. I wasn’t looking for the idea, it just found me.”[citation needed]

The campaign is raising awareness about an organisation that can bring hope and support to missing children and their families: “Thanks to the NotFound project, people affected by a tragedy of this type realise there is someone out there who can help,” says Delphine Moralis, Secretary General of Missing Children Europe.[citation needed] Secondly it provides exposure for local missing cases to internet users from all over the world, who might have useful information.[citation needed]

Organisational Strategy 2014-2017[edit]

Principles of the organisational strategy[edit]

  1. an embedded and integrated approach
  2. partnership and complementarity
  3. European coordination, harmonization and representation
  4. quality of services should at all times be at the heart of our work

Thematic priorities of the strategy[edit]

Within the different categories of missing children, our focus will lie on the most vulnerable and oftentimes neglected categories of missing children:

  • Runaways
  • Missing unaccompanied migrant children
  • International parental abductions

Strategic pillars[edit]

Strategic priorities identified are clustered around 4 interrelated pillars of work:

  1. Services & Tools
  2. Research & Evidence
  3. Awareness & Prevention
  4. Policies & Laws

Specific priorities[edit]

  1. Ensure the quality of services provided by & cooperation between members of MCE
  2. Ensure the quality of services provided by and cooperation between 116 000 hotlines
  3. Facilitate access to trained mediators for parental abductions
  4. Promote the development of interconnected child alert systems
  5. Promote public-private-partnership solutions
  6. Understand the extent of the problem
  7. Understand root causes and risks
  8. Understand effectiveness of responses
  9. Increase general public awareness on the problem of missing children
  10. Support professionals in preventing child disappearance
  11. Increase general public awareness on the avenues for reporting and obtaining support in cases of missing children, in particular 116 000 hotlines
  12. Stimulate the development of effective policies and laws related to causes & risks of child disappearance at European level
  13. Stimulate the implementation of European policies and laws related to causes & risks of child disappearance at national level

Member organizations[edit]

The 30 NGOs represented by Missing Children Europe are:[6]

  • Austria: Rat Auf Draht
  • Belgium: Child Focus
  • Bulgaria: Nadja Centre Foundation
  • Cyprus: Consortium: SPAVO & HFC
  • Czech Republic: Nadace Nase Dite, Missing Children Czech Republic
  • Denmark: Thora Center
  • Estonia: Estonian Advice Center MCE
  • France: APEV, La Mouette, CFPE
  • Germany: Weisser Ring
  • Greece: The Smile of the Child
  • Hungary: Kék Vonal
  • Ireland: ISPCC
  • Italy: SOS II Telefono Azzurro
  • Lithuania: Missing Persons' Families Support Centre
  • Poland: ITAKA
  • Portugal: I.A.C
  • Romania: Focus Romania, Salvati Copiii
  • Slovakia: Linka Detskej Istoty
  • Spain: ANAR, Protegeles
  • Switzerland: SSI, Missing Children Switzerland
  • The Netherlands: The International Child Abduction Centre
  • United Kingdom: Missing People

The 3 associate member NGO's are:

  • Czech Republic: Ztracene dite
  • Croatia: Centre for missing and exploited children
  • Serbia: Astra


The budget of Missing Children Europe is covered by: - An (annual) operating grant from the European Commission, covering a % of Missing Children Europe’s running costs - Project funding from the European Commission covering a % of the costs of specific projects coordinated by Missing Children Europe - Funds raised through events organised by the Supporting Committee of Missing Children Europe - Ad hoc donations from partners - Membership fees

Missing Children Europe’s accounts are audited annually and published in the annual report.

Fundraising Events[edit]

Golfing for Missing Children Europe[edit]

A charity golf competition started in 2006 that is organised by Missing Children Europe annually on famous golf courses in Belgium. The 2012 edition of MCE's golf competition took place on 20 April 2012 at the Hulencourt Golf Club. Followed by the traditional award ceremony and a dinner served in the Clubhouse, the event raised a total of 30.470 €. More information can be found on the website.[7]

Skiing for Missing Children Europe[edit]

The Engadin Ski Marathon is a well-known cross-country skiing event in Switzerland which attracts more than 10,000 participants annually. Missing Children Europe usually recruits a team of skiers who ski to raise funds for MCE and its activities by participating in the marathon. The event takes place in the Engadin valley in Switzerland. A team of 52 skiers joined the Missing Children Europe team in 2012, jointly raising about 59.590 €.

Running for Missing Children Europe[edit]

The Brussels Marathon attracts 12,000 runners each year. This is another annual fundraising event that Missing Children Europe participates in. MCE recruits runners from companies and organisations who run to raise money for the organisation's activities. A missing Children Europe team of no less than 480 runners took part in the event, raising a total of 13.670 €.


While measuring impact is difficult, below are a couple of figures that illustrate the impact of Missing children Europe's work: - Hotlines for missing children operated through the same number: from 10 hotlines in 2010 to 29 in 2014 - Calls to hotlines for missing children hotlines have increased 179% from 2012 to 2013 - 44.146.679 images of missing children have been displayed since 2012 through Missing Children Europe’s NotFound app - The network of Cross Border family mediators’ grew to 100+ bi-cultural trained mediators in 2014 - 6 new members joined the EFC in 2014 including Elavon, ECPAT International and the Swedish financial coalition against child pornography

Overall, Missing Children Europe’s work has had a tremendous and demonstrable impact on how the issue of missing children is being dealt with across the EU. Just a number of years ago, parents facing the disappearance of a child had no service to turn to for support. The awareness created by Missing Children Europe and its members has changed that. In addition, for countries where a service was already in place, important obstacles existed when a child was – for instance – abducted to another country. With no efficient cooperation across the different member states, organisations were at a loss, and children were left in the dark.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mission". Missing Children Europe. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  2. ^ "116 000: Implementing the European Telephone Number for Missing Children". Missing Children Europe. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  3. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". NotFound.org. Belgium. Retrieved 20 September 2014. My country is not listed. Does it make sense to install Notfound on my website? If your country is not listed NotFound.org will show missing children from other countries on your 404 pages. So you can already implement the code on your site. As soon as the NotFound.org initiative will be available in your country, the system will be able to determine the location and adapt it accordingly. 
  4. ^ "Famous & MCE launch the international phase of NotFound". famous.prezly.com. Brussels, Belgium: Famous - Pressroom. 23 May 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2014. NotFound was launched by Missing Children Europe, in co-operation with its Belgian member organisation Child Focus, and the creative agency Famous. 
  5. ^ "Missing children messages go on 404 error pages". BBC News. 27 September 2012. Retrieved 20 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "Members of Missing Children Europe". Missing Children Europe. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  7. ^ supportmce.eu

External links[edit]