To save the lives of missing children, AMBER Alert Europe’s law enforcement experts call for a risk triage for missing children to quickly qualify or disqualify risk for the life or well-being of the missing child.

AMBER Alert Europe’s 5 key recommendations are aimed at improving cross border cooperation and coordination to save the lives of missing children in Europe. We call for better cross border law enforcement cooperation, enhanced communication between law enforcement and European citizens and better use of existing EU agencies and instruments.

Key recommendations

1. A bigger, stronger AMBER Alert network
2. More flexibility in issuing child alerts
3. Better cross-border information sharing
4. Better cross-border police cooperation
5. Improving the identification and protection of children at borders

Memorandum to the EU

For more information on the goals and key points of AMBER Alert Europe, please have a look at AMBER Alert Europe’s Memorandum to the European Commission and European Parliament.

Key point 1. A bigger, stronger AMBER Alert network

AMBER Alert Europe’s ultimate goal is to improve the protection of endangered missing children in Europe and support the EU recommendation for all member states to have child alert systems that can interoperate with other member states. Currently 18 countries have alert systems in place of which 9 have been used at least once. These systems are currently not interoperable with other European AMBER Alert systems.

CALL FOR ACTION

We are actively working with member states to assist with the development of alert systems but call on the EU to encourage more member states to develop EU child alerts systems.

CALL FOR ACTION

It is important to build awareness that the alert platform can be used for other missing children cases. For example for bringing other endangered missing children to the attention of the public. This would make greater use of the technology and networks but would not be called an AMBER Alert.

Key point 2. More flexibility in issuing AMBER Alerts

In order to significantly increase the opportunities to save children at risk of immediate serious harm, we would like to amend the criteria for issuing child alerts. Several European Member States have already adopted flexible criteria.

Best interest of the child

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 would like to remove the need for there to be an abduction and be able to issue an alert when law enforcement specialists have assessed the child’s life is in imminent danger.

CALL FOR ACTION

We call for amending the current criteria for issuing child alerts by adding the possibility to issue an alert when law enforcement specialists have assessed that the child’s life is in imminent danger.

Key point 3. Better cross-border information sharing

Every endangered missing child deserves an equal chance of being found as quickly as possible and this must not be inhibited by them crossing borders.

Immediately crossing internal EU border

37.5% of the EU population lives in border areas, ensuring that information about endangered children is shared across borders is essential. Following the Schengen agreement and the freedom of information, information on endangered missing children should immediately cross internal EU borders.

CALL FOR ACTION

AMBER Alert Europe calls for protocols to ensure that when a child is at risk in a border area or law enforcement suspects that the child may have crossed the border, law enforcement agencies in the other country are informed immediately. When law enforcement decides to inform the media and public about such a case, media and public at the other side of the border should also be immediately informed.

Key point 4. Better cross-border law enforcement cooperation

We recognise the requirements of the legal process within Member States, and organisations such as Europol, Frontex and Interpol. But it is essential that when a child’s life is in danger law enforcement experts must be able to initiate immediate action.

Police Expert Network

As a first step towards this, we are creating a European Police Network on missing children, currently consisting of over 35 law enforcement specialists from 12 countries, led by Charlie Hedges, a renowned expert in the field of missing children. These specialists will form a network of law enforcement authorities throughout Europe, to be the first point of contact in critical cases and to enable the sharing of good practice.

We will work with all organisations to ensure that the above does not create overlap or conflicts but rather focus on enhancing the rapid response which is vital to safely locating endangered missing children.

CALL FOR ACTION

We call for the formal adoption of AMBER Alert Europe’s Police Network, consisting of experts from national law enforcement agencies in the field of endangered missing children and child alerts. The network should be part of the law enforcement response and is to be appointed as such by the relevant authorities in each EU member state. We also call for all organisations, statutory and NGOs to work together for the common purpose of protecting vulnerable children.

Key point 5. Improving the identification and protection of children at borders

To identify and protect children at risk at EU external borders, European Member States should make a best effort to immediately enter endangered missing children in the Schengen Information System (SIS II). Consequently, border guards should be actively informed about endangered missing children & AMBER Alerts by law enforcement agencies. Raising awareness and providing practical guidance for border guards is essential to identify and protect children that may be at serious risk of harm such as trafficking, smuggling and abduction. AMBER Alert Europe and Frontex are actively cooperating with border guards on the VEGA children project, a training program and handbook for border guards.

CALL FOR ACTION

We call for the mandatory insertion and prioritisation of endangered missing children in SIS II, ensuring that international procedures for entering Article 32 Alerts (Missing Persons) in SISII are always followed. In order for this to have effect, the passports of children leaving or entering the EU should be swiped and checked against, at the very least, national- and SISII databases.

CALL FOR ACTION

We call for actively informing border guards, at the very least, about information on endangered missing children and AMBER Alerts made public by law enforcement agencies. Subsequently, we call for more awareness raising and practical guidance for border guards to identify and protect children at risk in close cooperation with Frontex.