Some 250,000 children go missing every year or one child in the EU – a frightening statistics revealed at a special event held by Missing Children Europe in the European Parliament, Brussels this week which I attended as the Parliament’s Mediator for International Parental Child Abduction.
Over half of missing children cases reported to the 116 000 missing children hotline network are running away from home or care institutions, another 37 percent are of children abducted by a parent while 1 percent of missing children cases are those of unaccompanied migrant children and criminal abductions respectively. The reasons vary from violence, abuse, exploitation, neglect and abduction.
Across the EU, some 25 percent of the cases have a cross border dimension and therefore, cross-border cooperation is vital, and support is also provided by Missing Children Europe and its members.
Missing Children Europe is the European federation for missing and sexually exploited children representing 30 grassroots NGOs in 24 countries in Europe who work directly with missing children and their families. This International Missing Children’s day, help protect missing children by saving the European missing children hotline number- 116 000 – in your phone. This hotline provides free, professional support to children and families facing child disappearances 24/7.
The response to the problem is to support families in difficulties and to provide structures for children in danger to have access to social care systems.
As the European Parliament’s Mediator for International Parental Child Abduction, I have called for clearer guidelines and greater legal certainty on the issue of child abduction, while being mindful of the child’s rights and what is in the best interest of the child.
Specialised courts and a network of mediators to deal with transnational proceedings and the creation of a European database to monitor the phenomenon would be beneficial.
There is also room for preventive mediation to stem the possibility of problems arising and the situation then needing remedial action, a much more difficult situation.
Every week my office as mediator deals with distraught parents concerned about their children and we attempt to assist them resolve the situation, including contacting central authorities in Member States where appropriate.
Significant work needs to be undertaken to alleviate the trauma for children of parental child abduction across borders and I will continue to promote this issue in my role as Vice-President. Indeed, I will host a conference on this topic in the European Parliament office in Dublin later this year.
Marriage equality referendum
Ireland made international headlines over the weekend as the first country in the world to ask its citizens to vote on the introduction of same-sex marriage. 62 per cent voted in favour, so marriage equality will become a reality in Ireland by autumn.
In Europe, 10 other countries have already extended equal rights to their LGBTI citizens to marry: Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the UK (excluding Northern Ireland), Slovenia and Sweden.