EMN Inform on Missing Unaccompanied Minors in the EU, Norway and the United Kingdom
The phenomenon of migrant children going missing has recently received increased attention from the media in several Member States and the European Parliament, an issue that has not yet been addressed in an effective manner, as reflected in several recent publications by international organisations and European NGOs.
In response to this concern, the EMN, at the request of the European Commission, has mapped how cases of unaccompanied children going missing are being treated in the Member States. The EMN asked: who is in charge of reporting the disappearance of missing unaccompanied minors and what are the procedural steps taken by authorities? What cross-border networks are in place? What national data is available for this group of children?
It is not possible to accurately quantify the phenomenon of missing unaccompanied children in the EU due to lack of comparable data. Many Member States do not have reliable or complete data on missing unaccompanied minors, and the existing data is not comparable. Bearing in mind the shortcomings mentioned above, based on the data provided, the majority of missing unaccompanied children reported over the period 2017-2019 were over the age of 15, and the vast majority were males. The three most frequently cited countries of nationality of missing unaccompanied children were Afghanistan, Morocco and Algeria.
Almost all Member States and Norway reported elaborate procedures in place for dealing with unaccompanied minors going missing, which are often identical and/or similar to the procedures for the national/EU children who disappear. These included: procedures and rules for determining when an unaccompanied minor should be reported as missing, rules on who is responsible for reporting the disappearance and for issuing alerts (nationally and cross-border), and rules on who is responsible for following up on the disappearances (generally, the Police). At the same time several NGOs noted that, in their experience, there are discrepancies between existing frameworks in place and the practice. For example, Save the Children and Missing Children Europe noted that in practice the registration of a disappearance may not always be followed up by the police, as in the case of missing national children. According to them, the problem is sometimes one of insufficient cooperation between various authorities: police, asylum, social and child protection authorities do not always have protocols and safeguards in place to work together in case a child goes missing, preventing a proper and swift response once this happens. Missing Children Europe also notes the problem of insufficient training of all professionals involved on
issues related to the disappearance of migrant children.