The recently published report 'Best practices and key challenges on interagency cooperation to safeguard unaccompanied children from going missing' offers findings that stem from an in-depth study on the issue of unaccompanied children in Europe. It has been developed in the framework of the project 'Safeguarding Unaccompanied Migrant Minors from going Missing by Identifying Best Practices and Training Actors on Interagency Cooperation (SUMMIT)', co-funded by the European Union.
Europol estimates than over the last two years, more than 10,000 children may have disappeared after arriving in Europe. However, national reports seem to suggest that the number of missing unaccompanied children could be much higher, and that many children go missing before being registered in Europe by authorities. More than 89,000 unaccompanied children arrived in the European Union in 2015, representing a dramatic increase since 2014, when the number was 23,000.
The report includes insights from the actors who deal primarily with the reception of unaccompanied children and those who focus on the disappearance of children. It examines practices in seven EU countries - the UK, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Cyprus, Ireland and Greece.
In the study, the authors offer a series of good practices and call for improved cooperation between social workers in shelters and reception centres, guardians and other parties, by increasing law enforcement measures and the use of hotlines for missing children, to better prevent and respond to the disappearance of unaccompanied children.
Among the most common challenges encountered, professionals complained about inconsistent data collection methods in their countries and within Europe, making exchange of relevant information difficult and ineffective.
Many professionals admitted that it is often assumed that children leave voluntarily and that a proper risk assessment is rarely conducted, leaving children exposed to exploitation and trafficking.
The report will be followed by a manual for grassroots professionals to be published in the following weeks, as well as a training event, which will take place in April, to present these findings and best practices, and to allow for the dissemination of this knowledge and these resources to people working on the field.
The IJJO supports all efforts made to stop and eradicate the phenomenon of missing unaccompanied children, and as partner of the NET for U European research project has worked to define an effective multidimensional intervention programme aimed at improving the integration of unaccompanied foreign children. We urge national counterparts to coordinate their work to effectively monitor these most vulnerable children and guarantee their fundamental rights, avoiding the risk of exposure to exploitation and trafficking.
International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO). Belgian Public Utility Foundation
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