25th of May: International Missing Children’s Day
Athens, 25 May 2020
25th of May: International Missing Children’s Day
Pioneering Lead for Greece and "The Smile of the Child" through the GMCNgine platform; a new tool with unique capabilities to locate children around the world.
"The Smile of the Child" sets new partnerships and emergency services at the disposal of all children and adults who go missing & belong to vulnerable and high-risk groups.
On the occasion of the 25th of May, International Missing Children’s Day, and for the 15th consecutive year, "The Smile of the Child", organized an online Event on the new actions, initiatives and collaborations aiming at addressing the phenomenon of children going missing and its prevention, as well as of adults who belong to vulnerable and high-risk groups.The event was moderated by Mrs. Alexandra Kapeletzi, a well-known presenter and journalist.
According to statistics from “The Smile of the Child”, during 2019 and including the first quarter of 2020, 163 children and 12 adults were reported missing, of which 138 and 10 were found respectively. Amber Alert Hellas was activated for 16 children, while the new Missing Alert Hellas service - aimed at people aged 18 to 60 who belong to vulnerable groups and high-risk groups - was activated for 8 adults.
According to data of the Hellenic Police presented by Mrs. Maria Tyligadi, Police Deputy Director & Director of the Sub-Directorate for Archive and Identity Search, during the respective period the Hellenic Police handled a total of 420 cases of missing children and 1.892 cases of missing unaccompanied minors.
At the beginning of the Meeting short addresses were extended by the Deputy Minister of Civil Protection, Mr. Eleftherios Oikonomou, the Deputy Minister of National Defense, Mr. Alkiviadis Stefanis, the Deputy Minister of Culture and Sports, Mr. Lefteris Avgenakis, the OTE Group Computer Systems, Mr. George Athanassopoulos, Head of the Hellenic Police, Mr. Michael Karamalakis, the Commander of the Hellenic Coast Guard, Mr.Theodoros Kliaris, the Director of Security and Protection of Maritime Borders, Captain Eleftherios Petropoulos, the Commander of the Hellenic Fire Brigade Mr. Stefanos Kolokouris, the President of the National Emergency Aid Centre (EKAV) Mr. Nikos Papaefstathiou and the Secretary General for Family Policy and Gender Equality, Mrs. Maria Syrengela. Heads of European Bodies honored the E-event with their recorded messages, the Vice President of the European Commission for the Promotion of the European Way of Life, Mr. Margaritis Schinas, the Managing Director of the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Mr. Bob Cunningham, the Chairman of the Board of Missing Children Europe, Mrs. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Greece, Mr. Philippe Leclerc, participated with a statement focusing on the great importance of the UNHCR Guidance Note for the Management of Incidents of Missing Minors, jointly drafted by the High Representative, the High Commissioner and "The Smile of the Child".
The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Organization "The Smile of the Child", Mr. Costas Yannopoulos, announced the launch of the new institutionalized service Missing Alert Hellas which, in the model of Amber Alert Hellas, is activated by the Agency for the Prevention and Treatment of Adult Disappearances belonging to vulnerable groups at high risk of going missing. The aim is to provide special protection to individuals who:
- are at risk (eg due to mental health, psychological problems, etc.)
- are reported missing after accidents or natural disasters, or
- suffer from serious health problems that require uninterrupted medication.
The President of the Federation of Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Mental Health Institution "ARGO", Mr. Menelaos Theodoroulakis, made a statement on the importance of providing such services.
The Chairman of the Board of "The Smile of the Child" Mr. Costas Yannopoulos stated: "The Smile of the Child stands next to every child and now also stands next to every adult who goes missing and belongs to a vulnerable and high risk group, always in collaboration with the competent bodies and with respect to the official search procedures of the Hellenic Police and the orders of the Prosecutor's Office. Through a wide network of services, actions and initiatives, through constantly renewed as well as new partnerships, and thanks to the use of innovative tools and advanced technological resources, we continue to respond promptly and effectively to missing cases, setting Greece as a worldwide standard. This success is also attributed to a great extend to the fact that Greece and our Organization were the first to join the GMCNgine platform, a pioneering tool with unique capabilities for locating children around the world.”
Specific mention was made of the official partnerships of the “Smile of the Child” with:
- The Ministry of Civil Protection regarding the establishment of the new Missing Alert Hellas service.
- The Ministry of National Defense, which provides the implementation of co-education and also encourages the close cooperation of the Search and Rescue Team "Thanasis Makris" with specialized teams of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff. (GEETHA)
- The Municipal Police of the Municipality of Athens, as well as the Municipal Police of the Municipality of Thessaloniki for their integration in the Amber Alert and Missing Alert Hellas Programs, creating a strong partnership archetype, as evidenced by the recent locating of an 11-year-old girl by Police Officers in Thessaloniki.
The Deputy Minister of Civil Protection, Mr. Eleftherios Oikonomou, stated: “The International Missing Children’s Day highlights the responsibility of all relevant bodies and society to raise maximum possible awareness for this serious global phenomenon that societies face today.” He further noted that 250.000 children go missing in Europe every year, almost 1 child every 2 minutes. Mr. Oikonomou, thanked The Smile of the Child for its valuable contribution, the stable cooperation with police authorities and also for the international initiatives, turning the Organization into a pioneering point of reference in the field of Disappearance.
The Deputy Minister of National Defense, Mr. Alkiviadis Stefanis, referred to the excellent cooperation of the Ministry with "The Smile of the Child", which was formalized through the signing of a MoU. In particular, he said: "We are very proud of the Organization, among other reasons because “The Smile of the Child” has achieved the highest children recovery rate in Europe and one of the highest rates in the world. This exemplifies the Organizations’ passion and love for children…. As an Organization, that stands by children who present our future, we applaud these actions and we personally thank Mr. Yannopoulos for granting us the opportunity to be part of this big family that works for the benefit of children."
The Head of the Hellenic Police, Mr. Michael Karamalakis, referred to the International Day as an opportunity to review the Hellenic Police efforts, expanding: "The Hellenic Police is determined to play a pivotal and decisive role and along with "The Smile of the Child”, operate with the ultimate goal to support the dreams of all children, their smiles and their hopes.”
The Commander of the Hellenic Coast Guard, Mr. Theodoros Kliaris, referred to the difficult conditions of the pandemic, congratulating all those who remained in the frontline, committed to their work of supporting all vulnerable children. "The Hellenic Coast Guard will remain a tireless helper and supporter in every effort, in every initiative, in every action to address any issue that is primarily and broadly of social interest."
The Chief of the Fire Brigade, Mr. Stefanos Kolokouris, pointed out "The Smile of the Child"’s valuable contribution in the field of child recoveries and further noted: "The Fire Brigade will always stand by your side, as helper and companion in your efforts. Our co-operation so far is impeccable. The contribution of our service to finding people should be considered a given. We will continue with the same determination."
A special highlight of the e-event was the presentation of the participation of the Greek football community in the international campaign “Football Cares” and the actions of "The Smile of the Child" to raise public awareness. The Greek football teams of AEK, ASTERAS TRIPOLIS, ATROMITOS, PAE XANTHIS, OLYMPIAKOS and PANATHINAIKOS joined forces and sent their message through short videos highlighting the prospects of mobilizing citizens in localized efforts through the “European Hotline for Missing Children 116000” operated by “The Smile of the Child”. The Super League is also actively involved in this campaign, publishing photos of missing children, as well as basic information on its social media. The initiative "Football Cares", in whose framework 200 football teams from 20 countries participate, supports the work of the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children. (ICMEC) “The Smile of the Child” is a member of the Board of Directors and close associate of ICMEC.
The Deputy Minister of Culture and Sports, Mr. Lefteris Avgenakis, stated “Sport as a social expression is also determined by the values of cooperation and solidarity, in addition to its self-evident contribution to the formation of healthy standards, especially in children and the younger generation. The sports family in our country and worldwide is extremely sensitive to the huge issue of disappearance of children. We must further develop the “Football cares” program in Greece, support it with the parallel activities of the “Live with Sports” program and highlight every aspect that could help in saving children. As our poet L.Papadopoulos wrote, M.Theodorakis composed, and P.Sidiropoulos sang “Be aware of the child, defend the child, there will always be hope, if the child is saved ”
A special part of today's event has to do with new technology and tools that rescuers can use, made possible by "The Smile of the Child", thanks to its partnership with international organizations, technological companies with a leading role worldwide, and also with companies and institutions in Greece. such as:
- The new Missing Alert App with the technological support of COSMOTE: With the new innovative mobile application of the Organization "The Smile of the Child", everyone can contribute to the faster detection of missing persons in our country, using the capabilities of digital technology.
- The GMCNgine platform where all information and photos of missing children are posted, accessed by partner organizations and law enforcement authorities,
- in collaboration with Amazon Web Services, search and recognition are performed on databases, also possible in the deep & dark web. In the case that a child gets identified, all competent authorities are mobilized immediately across borders to locate the missing child and to prosecute the perpetrators. Greece and "The Smile of the Child" thanks to their experience and their technical know-how, were the first to join this platform.
The OTE Group General Manager of Operations & Information Systems, Mr. George Athanassopoulos, spoke about the new Missing Alert App: “The idea of the Missing Alert app started with Hackathon, our internal technology competition - by a group of young people who had their own family brushes with disappearance cases. We had immediate interest in the app, with partners forseeing that this would develop into a critical and smart technological solution to children recoveries, raising awareness for more active participation to combat this social phenomenon. This is our company’s purpose. Let's make a better world for everyone, through technology."
Further, the event included live demonstrations with the telephone operators of the European Hotline for Missing Children 116000, operated in Greece by "The Smile of the Child" in Athens, Thessaloniki, Patras, Heraklion and Kavala. There was also a videotaped presentation of the materials and the technical means available to "The Smile of the Child" and the co-responsible public and voluntary bodies, such as the 1st Mobile Laboratory of Information, Education & Technology "Odysseas", ambulances, rescue vehicles, vehicles personnel carriers, bicycles, motorcycles, generators, the volunteer pilots of the upgraded "Search and Rescue Team Thanasis Makris", canine groups and vehicles from the Fire Brigade, the Hellenic Army, the General Staff and the Coast Guard.
Finally, as every year, the children from the private kindergarten "Lilipoupoli" sent their own sensitive message to pay tribute to the International Day and missing children all over the world.
According to the official data of the Organization “The Smile of the Child”
The «European Hotline for Missing Children 116000» received 9.352 calls.
Prevention and Awareness
- 735 students,1.322 educators and 1.027 parents and guardians participated in interactive interventions
Handling of Missing Children Cases
- 129 children were reported missing
- 108 children were located
- 8 times AMBER ALERT got activated
- 5 times the Search and Resque Team “Thanassis Makris” was mobilized
First Quarter 2020
The «European Hotline for Missing Children 116000» received 2.714 calls
Prevention and Awareness
- 251 students, 550 educators, 305 parents and guardians participated in interventions
Handling of Missing Children Cases
- 34 children were reported missing
- 30 children were found
- 8 times AMBER ALERT got activated
- 3 times the Search and Resque Team “Thanassis Makris” was mobilized
Handling of Missing Adults Cases (18 to 60 years old)
- 12 adults were reported missing
- 10 adults were located
- 8 times MISSING ALERT HELLAS got activated
According to the official statistics of the Hellenic Police
In 2019 the Hellenic Police handled
- 328 cases of missing children with a finding rate of 86,5 %
- 1.562 cases of missing unaccompanied children with a finding rate of 37,6 %
In the first quarter of 2020 the Hellenic Police handled
- 92 cases of missing children with a finding rate of 77,17%
- 330 cases of missing unaccompanied children with a finding rate of 33,6%
According to the European Federation of Missing Children Europe (MCE), based in Brussels, in 2019
- 55.284 calls related to missing children were answered by the call operators of the “European Hotline for Missing Children 116000”, of which
- 55% referred to children gone missing
- 23% referred to parental abduction
- 3% referred to cases of migrant children and adolescents
According to the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC), based in Washington D.C., in 2019:
- In the United States 421.394 children were reported missing.
- In Canada 40.425 children were reported missing.
- In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that more than 80.000 children go missing every year.
- In Spain 1.978 children remained unfound until the end of 2019.
- In Australia 25.000 children and youngsters are estimated to be going missing on an annual basis.
- In Southern Korea 21.551 children were reported missing.
You may watch the videos presented during the E-Event here
The Smile of the Child would like to warmheartedly thank the following sponsors for their generous support.
- “Zulu Pixels” for the production
- “Nεανικό Πλάνο” for the subtitles
For further information please contact
“The Smile of the Child”
International Press Office
Tel. 0030 210 3306140