25 May is the day that marks the yearly recurrence of the memory of missing children. The International Missing Children’s Day started to be observed in the United States since 1983 and internationally since 2001 by initiative of the European Commission and two NGOs, Missing Children Europe, and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC). This regular recurrence is an opportunity to consider and reflect on the numbers and the dimension of the disappearance of minors in the world and in Europe.

This is particularly true in a situation like the current one of the migration management in Europe, where the rights of unaccompanied as well as accompanied minors are regularly at stake and require particular attention.

According to Missing Children Europe, the migrant or refugee children disappeared in Europe between 2018 and 2020 were almost 18.000. The latest figures published by the NGO says that in 2023, the hotlines of the association recorded around 67.345 calls and dealt with 7,274 cases. Analysing the percentage of the cases, Missing Children Europe noted that 66% of them were cases of children running away or being pushed away from their homes and care institutions, 18% were cases of parental abductions and around 6% where connect directly to the disappearance of children in migration.

The EU Asylum Agency (EUAA) established, since 2018, a network of Vulnerability Experts in order to tackle cases like the one of disappearing minors in migration. In April 2024, the EUAA and the Fundamental Rights Agency also published a collection of practical tools for guardians in asylum procedures which also includes indications on restoring family unity and family reunification.

In Italy, according to the 2023 report of the Extraordinary Commissioner for Disappeared Persons, out of the total number of the police reports about missing persons in 2023, 75% were about minors. Out of a total of 21.951 reports, 4.416 were about Italian children and 17.535 about foreigners (data that includes also other EU as well as third country nationals). In the first four months of 2024, out of 5.483 police reports about missing children, 1.593 of them were about Italians and 3.890 about foreigners. 

According to the same 2023 Italian report (at p. 57), the considerable difference between the number of police reports concerning Italians and foreigners has been recorded regularly since 2015 (with an exception in 2019), when the migration crisis in the Italian Mediterranean route started.

Image credits: childrescue.eu

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