An international two-day conference on missing persons is taking place in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on October 18-19. The Police Expert Network on Missing Persons’ Forum 2022, organised by the Slovenian Police and AMBER Alert Europe, brings together over 100 police experts in the area of missing persons to exchange knowledge, practices, and experiences, as well as come to a common European approach, increasing the chances of bringing missing persons back home.

The experts were welcomed by the Minister of the Interior, Tatjana Bobnar: “At the Ministry of the Interior and the Slovenian Police, we place great emphasis on the issue of missing persons. In my own experience, it is one of the most difficult forms of police work. Especially when it comes to missing children, as the most vulnerable members of society. When somebody goes missing, the police immediately activate all their forces and capabilities to find them as soon as possible, alive and unharmed.”

“Every parent knows the feeling of panic when they lose sight of their child. Fortunately for most of them, they quickly find their child again. However, there is not always a happy ending – 300,000 children are reported missing to the police every year in Europe. And many of them are taken across national borders,” said Frank Hoen, chairman and founder of AMBER Alert Europe, “To increase the chances of saving a missing child, we were in urgent need of strengthening the cooperation between police in European countries, while developing new tools and procedures.”

In 2021, better police cooperation in the area of missing persons, and subsequently the hopes for a common European approach, was firmly put on the map by the adoption of the Council conclusions on stepping up cross-border cooperation. Damjan Miklič, President of the Police Expert Network on Missing Persons and Head of the Homicide and Sexual Offences Section: “Our common approach increases the chances of bringing missing persons back home as soon as possible. With the Council conclusions on stepping up cross-border cooperation, we have upgraded our operational work and for the first time ever put missing persons on the map of the European security architecture.”

Worldwide attendance
In addition to police experts from more than 25 European countries, Australia, Canada and the United States, the conference brings together representatives of Interpol, Europol, Frontex, the Law Enforcement Task Force, the Bavarian Police, and police academies from Ljubljana, Zagreb and Lower Saxony in Germany. Also present are representatives of the Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Slovenia and foreign organisations such as Meta Inc. from the US, Locate International from the UK and Ludwig-Maximilian University from Munich.

PEN-MP beginnings
The predecessor of the PEN-MP, the Police Network on Missing Children, was initiated almost 8 years ago by AMBER Alert Europe as an informal single point of contact network for police experts in the area of missing children. In 2019, the PEN-MP was officially recognised by a body of the Council of the European Union, with the meeting of the Law Enforcement Working Party (LEWP). AMBER Alert Europe now operates as the Secretariat for the PEN-MP.

Before the conference, Minister Bobnar met with Frank Hoen for an informal and friendly conversation. During this meeting, they agreed that the Ministry of the Interior and the Slovenian Police were important partners of AMBER Alert Europe. They expressed their commitment to continue working closely together in the field of missing persons, which is considered to be one of the most difficult forms of police work and where international cooperation is of paramount importance.