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Young Runaways and Missing Migrant Children in Europe: Towards Improved Cross-Border Cooperation

Home affairs, Migration and Integration
Date: Tuesday, 24 October 2017 10:00 - 16:30

Venue: Thon Hotel Brussels City Centre, Brussels  |  City: Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Belgium

At least 250,000 children are reported missing every year in the European Union. The cases include runaways, parental abduction or abduction by a third person; lost, injured or otherwise missing children, and missing unaccompanied migrant children. About 80% of the cases are reported to State authorities and specialised missing children services and the vast majority of children return home or are found after a short period.

Missing unaccompanied migrant children represent the highest number of unreported cases. Migrant children are considered missing when they disappear from state care, from the reception or accommodation provided for them. The reasons are various: inadequate reception conditions, the fear of deportation or detention, or the desire to join family members elsewhere. Missing migrant children are extremely vulnerable, as they are exposed to high risks of trafficking, (sexual) exploitation, or violence along their way, resulting in mental health issues and trauma for 10/20% of unaccompanied children.

The European Union protects and promotes the rights of the child, as outlined by the fact that all of the EU Member States have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Further, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights as well as the Treaty of Lisbon (Article 3(3) Treaty on European Union) ensure that the EU institutions act towards the objective of promoting the rights of the child. For these reasons, the EU has put several measures in place to decrease the number of missing children, in partnership with international organisations. The “116 000” hotline, which is operational in all Member States, was launched in 2007 by the Commission as a tool to report missing children, as well as to provide social services for children and families. Additionally, child alert mechanisms have been set up in suspicion of a criminal abduction or a worrying disappearance to alert the public by all possible electronic means. As a response to the increasing number of migrant children, who made up 30% of all EU asylum applications in 2015 and 2016, the Commission outlined in April 2017 priority actions for the protection of all children in migration. They include swift identification and protection upon arrival, the provision of adequate reception conditions for children, an effective guardianship, faster family tracing and family reunification processes.

Despite these efforts, much more remains to be done for missing migrant children. Cross-border cooperation between the Member States needs to be improved, as well as the cooperation between police services, care agencies, national and local authorities, justice professionals and social workers. Better training for staff at registration and first reception is needed, there is scarce data collected, and many reception facilities do not meet child protection standards.

This timely international symposium provides an invaluable opportunity to discuss how to tackle the problem of young runaways and missing migrant children in Europe. The symposium will examine how to improve child protection across the EU and explore innovative methods of collaboration between Member States. Delegates will also have the chance to evaluate the effectiveness of assistance tools and child alert mechanisms. Public Policy Exchange welcomes the participation of all key partners, responsible authorities and stakeholders. 

Delegates will:

  • Discuss current policy frameworks for dealing with young runaways and missing migrant children in Europe
  • Explore new solutions for a successful cooperation across Europe at local, national and European level
  • Develop ideas to prevent children from trafficking, violence and exploitation
  • Analyse the role of stakeholders in implementing EU decisions and projects for missing children
  • Determine ways to improve the reception conditions for migrant children
  • Learn about recent EU developments on child protection
  • Share best practice of successful projects
  • Build strong partnerships between relevant stakeholders at national and international level 


09:15 Registration and Morning Refreshments
10:00 Chair's Welcome and Opening Remarks

Approaching the EU Framework on Child Protection 

  • The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Reference to Missing Children
  • Addressing the Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2016-2021)
  • Discussing EU Priority Actions for Children in Migration
  • Accessing Current Data Trends on Missing Children in Europe
10:40 First Round of Discussions
11.10 Morning Coffee Break

Lost Along the Way: Focussing on Missing Migrant Children

  • Discussing Recent Policy Developments Regarding Unaccompanied Minors
  • Facilitating Child-Friendly Reception Conditions
  • Exploring Actions to Avoid Trafficking and Exploitation of Migrant Children
  • Enabling Effective Guardianship and Family Reunification
12:00 Second Round of Discussions
12.30 Networking Lunch

Improving Inter-Agency and Cross-Border Cooperation at International Level

  • Coordinating the Role of Police Services, Judges, and Civil Society
  • Runaways from Care: Role and Point of View of the Caretakers
  • Accessing Operational Challenges and Experiences of Cross-Border Cooperation
  • Recommendations for Future Policy Developments
14.00 Third Round of Discussions
14:30 Afternoon Coffee Break

Exploring Alert Mechanisms and Best Practice across Europe

  • Evaluating the “116 000” Hotline as an Assistance Tool for Children and Families
  • Assessing the Effectiveness of Child Alert Mechanisms
  • Sharing Best Practice: Learning From Successful Projects
15.20 Fourth Round of Discussions
15:50 Chair's Summary and Closing Remarks
16.00 Networking Reception and Refreshments
16.30 Symposium Close

** Please note that the programme and speakers are subject to change without notice **


For Registration, click here.



+44 (0)20 3137 8630
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Avenue du Boulevard 17
1210 Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Belgium




All Dates

  • Tuesday, 24 October 2017 10:00 - 16:30

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