in Europe

Smile of the Child: Combating missing children and child trafficking phenomena


May 15, 2014, Thessaloniki, Greece: Over 90 participants from around 50 different national, regional and international stakeholders agreed on the need to enhance regional cooperation and coordination towards addressing the phenomena of missing children and child trafficking. Ensuring child protection in the region requires a review of the existing systems and mechanisms in order to identify the gaps, while the harmonization of data collection and the implementation of already existing and new tools, such as the use and expansion of 116 000 European Hotline for Missing children and the development of Information Desks could help public and non-public actors to better address these phenomena and the links of child disappearances and trafficking in children.
To discuss these issues and find ways of improving the situation the Greek NGO The Smile of the Child and the Southeastern European Center for Missing and Exploited Children (SEEC) organized this Forum under the auspices of the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union, with the support of the US-based International Centre for Missing and Exploited children (ICMEC) and the US Embassy in Greece. The Forum allowed civil society organizations and public authorities to explore the problems of missing children and child trafficking, exchange knowledge and share good practices.
Drawing on the panel presentations and discussions, key data on these problems emerged during the Forum:

? An estimated 250.000 children go missing every year in the EU;

? 800.000 children are reported missing every year in the US, that is more than 2,000 children every day;

? Runaways are the most often distinguished separate category, by more than a half of the EU Member States. Parental abductions and missing unaccompanied migrant minors are the other most common categories;

? According to the UK APPG Report from the joint Inquiry into Children who go missing from Care from 2012, children trafficked in the country usually run away within the first 48 hours of their placement in residential care;

? Only 9 EU Member States provide clear data on runaways;

? 1 in 7 runaway children is likely to become victims of trafficking;

? The Global Report of UNODC 2012 shows that of the detected victims of trafficking in the period 2007-2010, some 27% were children, while in the period 2003-2006, about 20 % were children;

? Among the child victims, there were more detected cases of trafficking of girls than of boys: two of every three trafficked children were girls, while one of every three was a boy;

? The most common origin of victims of cross-border trafficking in Western and Central Europe is the Southeastern Europe: 30% of victims of cross-border trafficking are nationals from this region;

? According to Eurostat the percentage of child victims of trafficking in human beings in the EU is close to 15 % covering the period for 2008, 2009 and 2010;

? According to the same source, girls account for 12 % and boys for 3 % of the total number of victims of trafficking in human beings.
In his opening address, The Chairman of “The Smile of the Child” Costas Yannopoulos referred to the initiatives of the Greek NGO ‘The Smile of the Child”. “The needs in housing, nutrition, healthcare, education and child protection in crisis-ridden Greece are enormous. Based solely on the support of our volunteers and donors we managed to cover a total number of 63,299 children and their families during 2013” Costas Yannopoulos said. He also highlighted the importance of the work promoted by the Southeastern European Center for Missing and Exploited Children (SEEC), which was created in 2010 following the adoption of an action agenda by government ministers, law enforcement officials and NGO’s from 13 countries who attended the first Balkan Forum in Athens back in 2007.
Welcome and opening addresses were also made by Yiannis Boutaris, the Mayor of Thessaloniki, Heracles Moskoff, National Rapporteur to Monitor & Combat Trafficking in Human Beings and Robert P. Sanders, General Consul of the United States in Thessaloniki.
The opening remarks were followed by a lively panel discussion between Olgica Cekic, SEEC Coordinator; Ruth Freedom Pojman, Acting OSCE Coordinator for Combating THB; Caroline Humer, Program Director, International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children; Delphine Moralis, Secretary General, Missing Children Europe; Daniel Esdras, Head of the IOM Office in Greece; and Alina Brasoveanu, First Vice-President of GRETA, Council of Europe. The discussion was centred around the work of different actors and organizations in the area of missing children and child trafficking on a regional, European and global level.
SEEC Coordinator highlighted the work of SEEC towards promoting the expansion of 116 000 European Hotline for Missing Children across the region, providing training to partnering NGO’s and sharing best practices. Caroline Humer from ICMEC gave emphasis to the lack of a common definition and standard response to missing/abducted children cases. “Just one missing child is one child too many” she commented when referring to the lack of reliable data. Delphine Moralis from MCE presented data that showed the clear links between missing children and the risk of trafficking. “Children are holders of rights. Every child that is missing should be treated as abducted or trafficked until proven otherwise,” Ruth Freedom Pojman from OSCE pointed out, further highlighting that police, immigration authorities and other actors should ensure that child trafficking victims are not arrested or detained, but provided with access to justice.
More revealing data was also emerged during the discussion giving a clear picture on the real dimension of these phenomena in today’s societies. Valuable input on the reality on the ground was also exchanged, while particular emphasis was given to the implementation of anti-trafficking policies.
Day 2 of the Forum included 3 different rounds of panel debates on different topics. Caroline Humer, Program Director, International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children; Mikaela Sundquist Hagan, Thematic Advisor Children on the move, Save the Children Sweden; Mariella Michalidou, Associate Community Services Officer for Children from UNHCR Athens, Greece; and Eftychia Katsigaraki, Head of Directorate of Juveniles’ Criminality Prevention and Penitentiary Treatment, Hellenic Ministry of Justice explored the links between the missing children and child trafficking phenomena. More specifically, this debate was focused on the vulnerability of children who run away from home or institution in the context of their exposure to traffickers and to the issue of missing unaccompanied migrant minors as victims or potential victims of child trafficking.
This discussion was followed by a second panel on the role of 116 000 European hotline for missing children in addressing cases of missing children and child trafficking. Alexandra Baciu, Case Manager, Romanian Center for Missing and Exploited Children, FOCUS Romania; Jelena Buvac, Coordinator for the 116000 hotline, NGO ASTRA Anti–trafficking Action, Serbia; and Rossanka Venellinova, President, NADJA Centre, Bulgaria shared their experience and insights through the operation of the Hotline and gave practical examples on how the 116 000 tool can also become useful towards combating trafficking in children.
The third panel discussion was focused on best practices in the area. Tomislav Ramljak, President, Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Croatia; Viorelia Rusu, Vice President, International Center for Women Rights Protection and Promotion “La Strada”, Moldova, Manca Rausl, Head of Preventive Activities, Drustvo KLJUC, Slovenia; and Ioanna Lagoumintzi, Social Worker, European Hotline 116000 Coordinator, The Smile of the Child, Greece were invited to contribute their expert input focusing on the best practices, what has worked, what are the success factors and on what would be important next steps to take. Specific emphasis was given towards exploring ways of enhancing stakeholders’ capacities and fostering mutual regional cooperation in the field.
The Chairman of “The Smile of the Child” Costas Yannopoulos closed the event by announcing that the way ahead, following the key findings of the discussions, will be summarized in the Thessaloniki Forum Recommendations, which will soon be available on the website of SEEC – The Southeastern European Center for Missing and Exploited Children and “The Smile of the Child”
More photos from this event available here
For more information on the press release please contact:
Press & Communication Team of “The Smile of the Child”
Panagiotis Pardalis, (+30) 210 33 06 140 –