When it is believed that the life or health of a missing child is in imminent danger, the police can issue an AMBER Alert. This allows them to instantly alert the public and make sure everyone is on the lookout for the child.
‘life or death’ cases
Extensive US research, backed by UK findings, show that when a child is abducted and killed, in 76% of the cases the child was killed within three hours after the abduction. The AMBER Alert system was developed for these special ‘life or death’ cases.
In 2016, AMBER Alert Europe shared 26 AMBER Alerts for 29 children from EU Member States.
Best interest of the child
In order to significantly increase the opportunities to save children at risk of immediate harm, several European Member States have adopted flexible criteria. In the best interest of the child, countries like the UK, The Netherlands and France have issued AMBER Alerts without evidence for a proven abduction.
We call for the possibility to launch an alert when police specialists have assessed that the child’s life is in danger. Below you can find the current criteria as recommended by the European Commission:
1. The victim is a minor (i.e. under 18 years of age);
2. It is a proven abduction, there are clear elements indicating that it could be a case of abduction;
3. The health or the life of the victim is at high risk;
4. Information is available which, once disseminated, will allow the victim to be located;
5. Publication of this information is not expected to add to the risk facing the victim.
Endangered missing children
A missing child is considered endangered when there is an immediate and significant risk of harm but the case does not reach the criteria for an AMBER Alert. Police can decide to publicise information and ask the help of citizens to recover the child.
In 2016, AMBER Alert Europe mapped 3539 cases of missing children cases from EU Member States, including Switzerland
Categories of risk
AMBER Alert Europe maps information on AMBER Alerts and missing children with police experts partner organisations and European citizens.
One million children go missing in the EU a year, according to Euronews. Missing children include several categories of child disappearances, including parental abductions, runaways, missing unaccompanied migrant minors, criminal abductions and lost, injured or otherwise missing children. In all of these cases there is a risk that the children may come into contact with people with bad intentions or are exposed to sexual abuse or other forms of harm.
The police assess the risk of harm to missing children and what type of response is appropriate. There is a range of categories of risk that are used in different countries, but in all cases it will include an assessment as to whether a child is considered endangered.