May 25: International Missing Children Day
Athens, 25 May 2021
May 25: International Missing Children Day
"The Smile of the Child" - 25 years of pioneering initiatives for missing children
#IMCD2021 #MissingChildren #MissingChildrensDay
For 25 years "The Smile of the Child" has consistently responded to the plight of missing children and adults, especially those belonging to high-risk groups, with strategic partnerships and initiatives to address the needs
In the last 25 years we assisted in the recovery of 1.728 missing children while
we managed 86.497 calls to the “European Hotline for Missing Children 116000”
For the 16th consecutive year "The Smile of the Child" organized an event at Zappeion Megaron to commemorate International Missing Children Day, on May 25th, and to present its new initiatives and collaborations aimed at responding the issues of missing children, as well as adults belonging to vulnerable and high-risk groups. The event was coordinated by the journalist Ms. Alexandra Kapeletzis.
"The Smile of the Child" mobilized its search resources for 122 missing children, as well as 37 adults in the period January 2020 - April 2021. At the same time the Organization managed 15.139 calls to the “European Hotline for Missing Children 116000”. Amid the pandemic, expert Psychologists of the Organization conducted prevention interventions addressed to 1.202 students, 1.170 teachers and 642 parents and guardians.
The Hellenic Police managed a total of 260 cases of missing minors and 992 cases of missing unaccompanied minors in 2020 according to the data of the Hellenic Police presented by Ms. Maria Tiligadis, Police Deputy Director, Directorship of Archives and Identity Search Sub-Directorate.
The Deputy Minister of Citizen Protection, Mr. Eleftherios Oikonomou, other Ministers and the Heads of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff (GEETHA), the Hellenic Police, the Fire Brigade and the Coast Guard honored the event with their presence.
Heads of international bodies addressed messages on the occasion:
● Mr. Alain Remue, Commanding Officer, National Missing Persons Unit, Federal Police, Belgium & Specialized Expert on crimes against children, Interpol
● Dr. John Bischoff III, Vice President, Missing Children Division, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)
● Mr. Bob Cunningham, CEO, International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC)
● Ms. Maud de Boer Buquicchio, President, Missing Children Europe (MCE)
The President of “The Smile of the Child” Mr. Costas Yannopoulos presented a brief review of the national and international milestones in the field of missing children and adults. "The Smile of the Child" assists in the recovery of missing children, by partnering with the relevant Greek authorities, and by developing expertise through the exchange of know-how and good practices with other international bodies.
Mr. Yannopoulos stressed; "In cooperation with Hellenic Police and the authorities in charge and following the official search procedures, we have been working for 25 years to provide our resources through services that are aimed at preventing or assisting in the recovery of missing children.
Over the course of the last 25 years we have accomplished a lot, things that seemed impossible at the time: the creation of the European Hotline for Missing Children 116000, my idea first implemented in Greece, the collaboration with Facebook, the implementation of Amber Alert Hellas, the creation of the Volunteer “Search and Rescue Team Thanasis Makris", our participation in ICMEC - the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children and in MCE - Missing Children Europe, as well as the use of the GMCNgine service for the search for missing children and much more.
This year, I am very proud to announce that we have developed a unique international network consisting of 150 members of Amber Alert Hellas. This is a particularly important effort, as cases of disappearances increase, especially those of adolescents and more specifically girls. Amber Alert Hellas has gained the valuable support of the National Highway Traffic Management Companies, all the Airports across the country, and all the banks who have agreed to publish missing children cases at their ATMs. We now also enjoy the support of football fans, thanks to the active participation of the Super League and its teams.
Nevertheless, we must be vigilant as thousands of children disappear every day in Europe and remain missing. The Missing Alert App is an advanced application designed and implemented pro bono by Cosmote for "The Smile of the Child" and is the simplest way to participate in the effort to bring every missing child and adult back home. I invite you to download this free of charge application on your mobile today.”
Thanks to the cooperation of the Ministry of Citizen Protection and the Ministry of Digital Policy, the AMBER Alert HELLAS service will be automatically activated on all mobile subscriber devices – as a free service message – in order to disseminate critical information that citizens can use to assist in locating missing children.”
The Deputy Minister for Citizen Protection, Mr. Eleftherios Oiconomou, stated: "The effective response to such incidents depends on the multi-level and close cooperation between the relevant government authorities and non-governmental organizations. The participation and contribution of the Organization "The Smile of the Child" in this great collective effort at a national, European and international level is of utmost importance. The cooperation of the Organization with the Greek authorities has now gained new momentum, expanded content and enhanced effectiveness.”
The Deputy Minister of National Defense, Mr. Alkiviadis Stefanis, stressed: "The armed forces have become a supporter of the great work accomplished by "The Smile of the Child", which actively contributes with all of its resources - personnel, tools, services, equipment and other means - to raise awareness and spread information to develop strong and reliable emergency intervention mechanisms for the most effective management of these cases."
In his address, the Deputy Minister of Culture and Sports, Mr. Lefteris Avgenakis, referred to the importance of family ties: "For the Deputy Ministry of Sports, the strengthening of social cohesion and family ties both constitute high priorities. Our major concern is to help in the raising of happy children and holistically educate them to grow into well balanced and useful citizens in our society. Our interest is to stand next to the children and their families, by providing practical assistance and support. The enhancement of our close cooperation with "The Smile of the Child" through the Memorandum of Cooperation contributes substantially to these goals".
The Deputy Minister of Migration and Asylum, Ms. Sofia Voultepsi, said: "The Smile of the Child" is the first body certified in our Ministry and this shows how important and in-depth is the work executed under the leadership of Mr. Yannopoulos. We are in close cooperation with "The Smile of the Child" as our field is the pre-eminent field in which childhood is severely tested".
The Secretary-General for Social Solidarity and Fight against Poverty, Mr. George Stamatis, stated: "The International Missing Children Day is a day of remembrance for children who have never been found. If we do not join forces, we will not be able to find a solution to this problem. "The Smile of the Child" proves that, if the state trusts civil society, then it may become a valuable ally in the fight for the protection of children.”
The Mayor of Athens Mr. Kostas Bakoyannis, stated: "In many cases "The Smile of the Child" acts as a catalyst for the coordination of the structures and the services of the Greek State. In the municipality of Athens we strongly believe that best results are brought by common goals, cooperation and coordination, especially in the field of welfare and solidarity. That is why we enthusiastically wanted to join forces with "The Smile of the Child".
The Chief of the Fire Brigade, Lieutenant General, Mr. Stefanos Kolokouris, congratulated the Organization for its work and referred to the cooperation of both sides in cases of natural disasters that hit Greek areas. He also added: "I am very pleased that you continue striving toward protecting children and supporting families with unabated interest and that you constantly try to improve. Especially today when people face challenges with their economic security , your contribution is extremely valuable."
The Major General, Director of 1st Division, Hellenic National Defence General Staff, Mr. Ioannis Tsioplos, referred to the timeless cooperation of the armed forces with "The Smile of the Child" and the joint training and Information actions implemented, stating: "The special departments of the Armed Forces, such as the Disaster-Response Mobile Team (KOMAK), comprise qualified personnel with appropriate training, even in the field of psychological support of victims of disappearance, and acquire trained military dogs that can help in cases of child search".
The Rear Admiral of the Coast Guard, Director of the Security and Policies branch, Mr. Aristides Pantazoglou, said: "We are ready to deal primarily with cases where disappearances occur in local port authorities or through the Operations Center of the Coast Guard. We commit that both officers and the operational means of the Corps will always be set at the disposal of the Organization".
The Lieutenant General, Mr. Konstantinos Lagoudakis, said: "The protection of minors is one of the highest priorities of Hellenic Police. Missing minors is a global phenomenon that also entangles the Hellenic Police. The Hellenic Police makes use of the provided information, taking all necessary measures and participating in training sessions of its officers. Further, the Hellenic Police has developed cooperation with all the right partners, among them with “The Smile of the Child"; first contact with children that went missing or were abused is made by frontline police officers. I want to thank you for your work and assure you that we will always provide support in all of your actions".
The President of the National Center for Direct Aid (EKAV), Mr. Nikolaos Papaefstathiou, said: "Today's commemoration should not only concern us, but also mobilise us to take action, because children represent our future. Stay assured that we will be at your side whenever required, to help those who need us and to continue our excellent cooperation so far.”
The President of the Board of Directors of the Hellenic Red Cross, Dr Antonios Avgerinos, stated: "We follow the work and appreciate the contributions of "The Smile of the Child”. We share common beliefs and values: humanism, volunteering, solidarity, respect, true interest and other fundamental principles. We will continue our joint efforts to raise awareness in preventing the disappearance of minors."
The event was attended by the Regional Governor of Central Macedonia, Deputy Head of Health, Mr. Christos Mittas, who joined online and referred to the integration of the region of Central Macedonia in the cooperating bodies of Amber Alert; “With the implementation of the Amber Alert program in Greece, missing children are detected in higher percentage and less time, with the help and participation of the citizenry and the coordination of processes by the authorities".
Similarly, the Mayor of Thessaloniki, Mr. Konstantinos Zervas, participated online: “To confront this global phenomenon we must take action and become part of an organized and systematic effort, the coordination of which "The Smile of the Child” has undertaken in Greece. The Municipal Police of Thessaloniki is an exemplary Directorate which contributes and cooperates systematically with the Organization, actively participating in cases of finding minors."
A special highlight of the meeting was the presentation of the video titled: "To Find Their Way Back Home", in which football players of all 14 Super League teams sent a message of support, respect and relief attributed to the successful recovery of missing fellow human beings, through a mobile app, the Missing Alert App. As part of the strategic partnership with "The Smile of the Child" and the “Football Cares” initiative, Super League and its teams are actively participating in Amber Alert and the Missing Alert Hellas programs, inviting all citizens to download The Missing Alert App on their mobile.
The president of Super League, Mr. Leonidas Boutsikaris, commented: "It is a great honour for Super League to be a member of this great family. We want to continue to work together. Every day is a day of vigilance, and support. We hope to announce new initiatives soon, among which will be the internationalization of the Organization's effort.”
Mr. Yannopoulos concluded the event with the delivery of Training Certificates indicating integration in the programs Amber and Missing Alert Hellas, granted to the Heads of the Municipal Police of Athens, Glyfada, Ilioupoli and Thessaloniki.
The impressive fleet of the Organization was presented at the courtyard of Zappeion, together with the emergency and support fleets of the involved authorities, such as the 1st mobile Information, Training & Technology Laboratory "Odysseas", ambulances, rescue vehicles, personnel transport vehicles, motorcycles, wheeled generators, the volunteer operators of the upgraded “Search and Rescue Team Thanassis Makris", volunteer rescuers, transportation means and logistical equipment from the General Staff of National Defence and the branches of General Staff, the Coast Guard, the Fire Brigade, the National Emergency Aid (EKAV) and the Municipal Police of Athens, Thessaloniki, Glyfada and Ilioupoli.
Children from the "Lilipoupoli" Kindergarten sent their own video message dedicated to children going missing and the International Missing Children Day.
● Presentation by Mr. Costas Yannopoulos
● Presentation by Mr. Stefanos Alevizos
● Statistics in detail
- Mr. Alain Remue, Commanding Officer, National Missing Persons Unit, Federal Police, Belgium
- Ms. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, President of Missing Children Europe (MCE))
- Dr. John E. Bischoff III, D.Eng. Vice President, Missing Children Division, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)
- Mr. Bob Cunningham, CEO, International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC)
"The smile of the child" warmly thanks the following sponsors for the kind support of the event:
● DIASTASIS S.A. for prints
● ACM for interpretation
● NEANIKO PLANO for subtitling
● HI POWER for equipment
● PHOTOSHOP COMPANY for photo coverage