25th of May: International Missing Children’s Day

25 May 2017


Athens, 25 May 2017

25th of May: International Missing Children’s Day

“The Smile of the Child” next to every Missing Child regardless of ethnicity or religion

“The Smile of the Child”, for 14th consecutive year and on the occasion of the 25th of May – International Missing Children’s Day, organized a meeting, in the framework of the “SAFE” project, under the title: Missing Children in Greece and in Europe, actions and initiatives for preventing and tackling of the phenomenon”. The meeting was held at the Zappeion Megaron – Hall of Athens and was moderated by journalist Alexandra Kapelentzi.

At the opening of the meeting short addresses were extended by the Secretary General of Public Order of the Ministry of Interior, Mr. Dimitrios Anagnostakis, the Alternate Secretary General of the Ministry of Interior, Mr. Tzanetos Flippakos, the Police Lieutenant General and Chief of the Hellenic Police, Mr. Konstantinos Tsouvalas, the Rear-Admiral and Director of Security and Policing of the Headquarters of the Hellenic Coast Guard, Mr. Ioannis Argyriou, the Operations Responsible, 1st EMAK of the Fire Brigade, Mr. Athanasios Balafas, the Director of Finance and Administration Support, Coordinator of 112 line of the General Secretariat of Citizens’ Protection, Mrs. Maria Varinou, the Executive of the Missing Persons’ Directorate of the Hellenic Red Cross, Mrs. Maria Liandri, and Mrs. Ioanna Kiosse from the Grants Management of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. The Ambassador of Belgium to Greece, His Excellency Luc Liebaut was also present at the event.

In the framework of the meeting, the official statistical data of “The Smile of the Child” and the Hellenic Police on child disappearances for the period of 01/01/2016 to 30/04/2017, as well as international data of the Figures and Trends report of the European Federation “Missing Children Europe”, whose national member is “The Smile of the Child” from Greece, were presented. Moreover, the project “SAFE- Sustainable Alliance for missing Children in Greece”, its aims and objectives, as well as its actions to date and its targeted groups, were presented as an integral part of the event.

The President of the BoD of “The Smile of the Child”, Mr. Costas Yannopoulos, presented the actions for preventing and tackling the phenomenon realized by the specialized personnel of the Organization, the specialized volunteer rescuers and the certified dog teams, the national and international cooperation with the competent institutional and volunteer actors, as well as the technical and logistical means at the disposal of “The Smile of the Child” for every child victim of disappearance in Greece, regardless of ethnicity or religion.

The President of the Organization noted: “The Smile of the Child” is next to every missing child always in cooperation with the competent actors and always with respect to the official procedures for the search operation carried out by the Hellenic Police, by providing its services in order to trace the missing child and ensure its safe return to the family without losing precious time. Today, all of us together, prove in the best way that uniting our efforts and utilizing all powers along with expertise and the scientific personnel provides the best model on the international level and makes Greece distinct across Europe”. Mr. Yannopoulos also added: “In Greece there are no abductions from third unknown persons in black jeeps! There are parental abductions where sadly children are victims of problems faced by their parents. So let’s not create panic for parents and children without concrete evidence”.

The statistical data of “The Smile of the Child”:

● In 2016, the “European Hotline for Missing Children 116000” received 6.149 calls.
● In 2016, the “European Hotline for Missing Children 116000” received 170 requests for the support of searches for missing children. Out of the total number of missing children, a publicity appeal was made for 47 children, while Amber Alert Hellas was activated for 9 children and the Search and Rescue Team “Thanasis Makris” was activated for 12 children. 80% of the children were traced (136 children).

It is worth mentioning that out of the total number of missing children, 33 refugee and migrant children, from which 24 were unaccompanied minors, 6 children were involved in worrying disappearances, 1 was a runaway and 2 children were victims of parental abduction. Out of these cases a publicity appeal was made for 17 children, while Amber Alert Hellas was activated for 3 children and the Search and Rescue Team “Thanasis Makris” was activated for another 6 children.

● During the first 4 months of 2017, the “European Hotline for Missing Children 116000” received 3.052 calls,
● The “European Hotline for Missing Children 116000” received 45 requests for support to searches of missing children. For 5 cases a publicity appeal was made, Amber Alert Hellas was activated for 6 children and the Search and Rescue Team “Thanasis Makris” was also activated for 4 children. 91% of the missing children were found (41 children).

Out of the above-mentioned figures it is worth mentioning that 1 case concerned a migrant/refugee child, who was successfully traced.

According to the official statistical data of the Hellenic Police, presented by the Deputy Director of the Missing Persons’ Department, Mr. Nikolaos Zervakakos, 241 cases of missing children were handled in 2016 and 270 children were traced, while 125 cases were handled in the period of January to the 15th of May of 2017 and 101 children were found.

International data

According to the Figures and Trends Report of “Missing Children Europe” (MCE):

● 31 countries in Europe run hotlines for missing children accessible by calling 116000.
● In 2016, 116000 hotlines received 163.786 calls, with a 12% increase in children calling the hotlines compared to 2015.
● In 2016, children running away or thrown out of home made up 57% of missing children cases reported to hotlines.
● Parental abductions made up the second largest group at 23% of cases.
● Criminal abductions made up less than 1% of cases reported in 2016, while lost, injured or otherwise missing children cases made up 13% of cases.

Regarding missing migrant children:

● Migrant children reported missing increased from 2% in 2015 to 7% in 2016 (Figures and Trends Report 2016, MCE).
● According to various reports 50% of refugee and migrant children run away from reception and child protection areas within the first 48 hours.
● A large majority of professionals working with unaccompanied children have never received training in preventing or responding to the disappearances of unaccompanied children (FRA).
● In 2015, at least 10.000 unaccompanied migrant children have disappeared within hours of being registered and only a handful has been found since. (Europol).
● 63.300 unaccompanied children are among the asylum seekers registered in the EU in 2016. Over half of them are Afghans or Syrians (European Migration Law).
● Children are increasingly targeted by traffickers and unaccompanied children are increasingly being coerced into criminal activities and exploitation (taken from the background note of the 10th European Forum on the Rights of the Child).

During the meeting the project “SAFE- Sustainable Alliance for missing Children in Greece” was presented, which is implemented by “The Smile of the Child” with co-funding (50%) from DG Justice of the European Union and the support of the Hellenic Ministry of Interior. The aims of the project are:

● The expansion of the high quality services of the “European Hotline for Missing Children 116000” in Greece
● The enhancement of a well structured and integrated approach in tackling the cases of a missing child with the cooperation of all actors involved
● The improvement of the management of the cases that are coordinated by the handlers of the hotline through the development of a response team
● A higher awareness of the Hotline in the country

The project targets actors at the Hellenic Police, the Fire Brigade, the Coast Guard, prosecutors and guardians, teachers, students and volunteer groups active in the field, as well as international actors active in Greece in the field of missing children.
Young visitors from the private kindergarten “Lilipoupoli” had the opportunity to attend the presentation of a fairytale on the issue of child disappearances, as well as to draw the flower “Forget me not”, a symbol for all missing children, passing their own unique message for the International Day.

In the outdoor facilities of the venue, the logistical and technical means at the disposal of missing children were presented, including among others the Mobile Lab of Information, Education and Technology “Odysseas”, the mobile Multi-Medical Unit “Hippocrates”, ambulances, rescue vehicles, motorbikes, mobile generators, dog teams and the certified search and rescue dogs, vehicles from the Fire Brigade, the Hellenic Police, the Coast Guard and the Hellenic Red Cross.

In various cities across the country (Thessaloniki, Larisa, Pyrgos, Heraklion and Chania in Crete, and Corfu) awareness raising and informational activities were organized on the phenomenon of missing children and the prevention of these incidents.

More photo material from the event can be found here.

“The Smile of the Child” would like to warmly thank for the support to the successful organization of the event:

● The Photo Shop Company for the photo material
● The children and teachers from “Lilipoupoli” kindergarten
● Europolis and Mrs. Daskalopoulou for the interpretation services
● Diastasis S.A. for the printed material
● ΑΦΟΙ Karioti ΟΕ for the equipment

For more information:
The Smile of the Child
Press Team, Panos Pardalis
Tel. +30 210-3306140