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Annual Review 2020

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Who we are

“We strive to protect and empower children to prevent them from going missing, and to keep them from harm when they do go missing”

2020 has been a challenging year. Measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 gravely impacted the rights and wellbeing of children across the world. Our hotlines for missing children strongly felt the impact. 35% reported receiving more calls and the overall caseload increased by 16,8% with school closures and restrictions on movement and social gatherings leading to more runaways and parental abductions. With no other sources of support, each case required more intensive follow-up.

Our members showed amazing resilience, investing, for example, in chat and text functions to make their services safely accessible to those who could not speak freely in confinement, and this despite the crisis’ severe impact on funding. I want to congratulate and thank all of them for their crucial work and dedication.
Despite the crisis, MCE continued its activities, and I would like to take the occasion to celebrate some of our achievements in 2020.

In March, while going into lockdown, MCE kicked off its runaways programme, RADAR, co-produced with young people with experience of running away. By late April, we had moved online, hosting more than 100 professionals in an Initiative for Children in Migration webinar on relocation of young newcomers. On May 25th we campaigned to support our hotline operators, and over the summer, the ChildRescue App was launched in Greece and Belgium.
November saw the kickoff of the iCare project raising awareness on international child abductions with and amongst young people; our very first Runaway Prevention Month campaign, crafted by children with experience of running away, reaching 200,000 people on social media; and a well-attended online symposium on “Technology for Good: engaging with the public to help find missing children”.

Finally in December we launched a series of videos from young newcomers spreading the word about Miniila – an app that helps them stay safe and informed – and organised an online Lost in Migration conference with 16 young newcomers who will co-lead the preparations of next year’s live conference.

We are currently seeing initial successes of our advocacy last year: As co-chair of the Child Rights Action Group we led the advocacy on the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child. Published this March, it provides a broad framework for the sector’s future work, and includes a recommendation to Member States to support and address the funding needs of the hotlines. We also brought together a coalition of more than 30 NGO’s to support the Commission’s legislative initiatives to combat child sexual abuse online, another problem exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. The strong pressure of the child rights organisations helped to ensure the adoption of temporary legislation allowing tech companies to continue to scan for child abuse material and detect grooming, keeping children safe(r) online while long term solutions are being developed.

Despite the challenges we managed to make 2020 fruitful. In the coming year, we will reflect on how to tackle the fall-out of this crisis.

We will take child participation to a new level, involving children with experience of going missing in the development of Missing Children Europe’s new strategy 2022-2025, which should enable us to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on children at risk of going missing.