Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) recognised the efforts of AMBER Alert Europe to improve cooperation on missing children and missing persons cases and called for a comprehensive framework at EU level to tackle the 300.000 cases of children going missing every year.

Addressing European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, during a debate on the need to set up a comprehensive framework for missing children, MEPs said that action is needed at both national and EU level. They stressed the need of rapid intervention by the law enforcement authorities in the search for missing children.

Commissioner Johansson outlined that “to help missing children and adults we need to work across borders and across sectors” involving all actors, including police, helplines, child protection services, judges, civil society organisations to work together. Commissioner Johansson also spoke on the need to allow the use of Prüm exchanges to search for missing persons using DNA, fingerprints and facial images within the Prüm regulation as “effective law enforcement cooperation can only be as effective as the legislation it is built on”. She stressed the need to protect and empower children to keep them from harm when they go missing and leave no stone unturned to find them.

The debate highlighted that risk of life or serious harm increases the longer persons are missing; this is even more evident for children, the most vulnerable due to their age. Unless a criminal activity has been identified, tools for a rapid interception by law enforcement authorities are limited, while the missing person remains at risk.

As the majority of missing persons cases do not have a criminal component, a gap in protecting their fundamental rights still remains. MEPs expressed support for AMBER Alert Europe’s activities in addressing this gap.

The debate, which supported the need for a comprehensive approach to supporting and protecting children at risk of going missing and improving the search of missing persons and missing children, is consistent with AMBER Alert Europe’s Common European Approach on Missing Children and Missing Persons aimed at improving the search for missing persons with priority and special attention to children considering their vulnerabilities.

MEP Caterina Chinnici, co-chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Children’s Rights, supported the establishment of a comprehensive framework at European level for missing children aimed at strengthening the relevent legislation, maybe even expanding the mandate of the European Centre to prevent and counter child sexual abuse.

AMBER Alert Europe’s engagement for the drawing up of a comprehensive approach for supporting and protecting children (at risk of) going missing in Europe is complementary to efforts of other missing children organisations, i.e. Missing Children Europe.

Besides the need for a comprehensive approach, MEPs also referred to the war in Ukraine, its consequences and related issues that should be addressed by the European Commission. 

The debate is available here.