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EC urges member states to make hotlines for missing children operational

Original Source: PORTUGAL NEWS: SATURDAY 29 MAY 2010
In marking the International Missing Children’s Day, European Commission Vice-Presidents Viviane Reding, responsible for EU Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, and Neelie Kroes, responsible for the Digital Agenda, urged EU Member States to step up their efforts to introduce child alert systems and to make the missing children’s hotline 116 000 operational as soon as possible.

The day was celebrated here in Portugal with news that police here reported a 100 percent recovery rate of children reported missing in the country during the course of 2009.

“Every missing child is a tragedy, and we must do everything we can to prevent such tragedies. The Commission created the European 116 000 hotline to report missing children and offer guidance and support to their families, everywhere in Europe. I regret to see that the hotline works only in 11 Member States,” said Vice-President Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.

“It is hard to come to terms with the fact that measures that could help are not yet fully operational across the Union. It would be a double tragedy to imagine a missing child trying to call the 116 000 hotline only to hear an answering machine playing a pre-recorded message announcing that the service will be operational in 2012. I call on Member States to put every effort into changing this.”

Vice-President Neelie Kroes, responsible for the Digital Agenda, added, “Member States must respect their legal obligations to not only put in place the missing children hotline number as a matter of urgency but also to ensure that the public is well-informed about it.”

The EU has already put in place rules to ensure that the 116 000 number is set aside everywhere in the EU for hotlines to report missing children.

These hotlines are currently operational in 11 Member States (Belgium, Denmark, Greece, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia).

The Commission also supports the creation of cross-border child alert systems that help in the search of abducted children by enabling the public to provide the relevant authorities with real-time information.

Alert systems exist in eight Member States (the Netherlands, Portugal, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Greece, Germany and the UK).

Speaking on International Missing Children’s Day, the mother of missing British girl Madeleine McCann spoke of the grief endured by parents of children who have disappeared.

“As a parent of a missing child, every day is difficult in some way. We would like to ask everybody to spare a thought and a prayer for all missing children. If you can help in any way, either through practical means, by improving awareness in some way or by donating to one of the Missing Children organisations we would be very grateful”, said Kate McCann adding: “Just because a problem cannot be seen, doesn’t mean it’s not there or can be forgotten.

“Missing children need our help. We can all make a difference.”

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