Missing Children Europe (MCE) is the European federation of 31 grassroots organisations working to protect missing and sexually exploited children. MCE coordinates the network of 116 000 hotlines for missing children, a dedicated service for children (at risk of) going missing and their families; and the cross-border family mediators’ network that prevents and resolves parental abductions.
Every year an estimated two hundred thousand children go missing in Europe. Due to the lack of comparable official statistics on missing children – the only Europe-wide report1 is outdated with figures from almost 10 years ago – It is difficult to grasp the full scope of the issue. That is why, since 2014, Missing Children Europe collects and analyses data from the hotlines for missing children and the network of cross border family mediators.
While the hotlines are generally able to give us information about the calls answered, more specific data relating to categories, causes, outcomes and so forth is not always collected.
The data collected from our hotlines therefore present a partial but nevertheless important snapshot: this overview of the trends of missing children cases in Europe is the only one collected on an annual basis, and can help us understand the evolution of causes and effects of child disappearance.
A total of 42.662 calls were answered in 2020 by the 22 hotlines who responded to this survey (compared to 55.284 by 23 hotlines last year).
In practice, they worked on a total of 8.857 cases including new cases and open cases from previous years compared to 7.582 cases last year, an increase by almost 17%.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures put in place to limit its spread during the year 2020 most certainly had an effect on the number of calls answered, as well as on the number of hotlines and mediators able to participate in the data collection, but clearly this did not decrease the caseload. More and more children and families contact our members through other means, such as online chat services and mobile apps. The COVID-19 crisis exacerbated the need to make services accessible in this way: not everyone could speak freely while confined with family.
The 116 000 number is currently active in 32 countries in Europe. Hotlines in 22 countries (20 NGO’s and 2 governmental agencies) contributed data to this report and 28 cross-border family mediators reported about their activity in solving international parental abduction cases. Missing Children Europe collected data from: Austria,
Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Ukraine.
All the graphs below relate to data from 2020, unless otherwise specified.