Commission Vice-President Jacques BARROT
As of today, Portugal has a child abduction alert system that will allow to gather, immediately after the crime, elements that can help quickly locate an abducted child.
A protocol that will be signed today at the Polícia Judiciária Superior School in Loures will associate several tens of public and private entities, including Lusa agency, which are apt to broadcast the message of abduction alert, with the judiciary and police authorities.
The creation of the national child abduction alert system follows the proposal that was presented during the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union at the
Justice and Home Affairs Council informal meeting, which took place in Lisbon, where Portugal proposed the creation of a Europe-wide mechanism.
in Lusa News Agency
Mr Rui PEREIRA, Portuguese Minister of the Interior
"Child abduction alert" System : Background and Objective
The Commission communication "Towards an EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child" of July 2006, and the informal Council meeting (JHA) on 1 and 2 October 2007, identified the need to develop cross-border mechanisms to combat child abduction in border areas. This concern is shared by the European Parliament, which, in a declaration adopted on 2 September 2008, called on the Member States to put alert mechanisms in place and to conclude cooperation agreements to allow for cross-border alerts.
The added value of such a mechanism is the ability to involve the public in getting information about a missing child. This mechanism helps to disseminate information widely and correctly, in the hours after the disappearance, by all means possible, such as e-mails, SMS on mobile phones, electronic advertising displays, illuminated signs on highways, flash information on radio and television, etc.
The Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting of 27 and 28 November 2008 adopted conclusions on "Child Alert" and invited Member States to introduce and develop national mechanisms to alert the public in case of criminal abduction of children, to define and arrange procedures for resolving cross-border abduction cases and to take as a basis for the establishment and development of these mechanisms, the good practices established by the European Commission.
The aim of this pilot project is to support EU Member States introducing child alert mechanisms, with a view to protecting children and to solve cross-border child abduction cases in an effective and efficient way.
Such a mechanism:
• is meant to answer the need for a quick response in cases of child abduction;
• should involve the public: the proposed mechanism should not call on members of the public to intervene themselves, but to help in the search by immediately providing the authorities with any information likely to help find the child and his/her abductor and therefore to help a person in danger;
• is meant to be restricted to child abductions in circumstances in which there is reason to fear for the life of the child concerned;
• is meant to be used with caution, and only in very serious cases when public information can help. The mechanism would be jeopardised if used inappropriately or too often. The public might be overwhelmed and thus no longer be inclined to respond and help;
• should be based on a clear geographical scope (that may evolve over time) defined according to indications given by the investigation;
• should be based on a single "contact point" in each Member State.
Existing mechanisms display various types of lines of command, responsibilities, partners involved and target audiences.
There are two main types of decision-making:
1. Law enforcement authorities decide whether or not to launch an alert, be it the police of its own accord or the police acting under the order/authorisation of a Public Prosecutor.
2. An organisation with official status regarding abducted children and able to provide services in cases of child abduction within the framework of a protocol signed with the national law enforcement authorities and listing the responsibilities and procedures to be followed.
The added value of having alert mechanisms in all Member States is being able to launch alerts quickly and easily in border regions. The minimum common criteria for launching a cross-border alert would be that:
• the victim is a minor (i.e. under 18 years of age);
• it is a proven abduction or there are clear elements indicating that it could be a case of abduction;
• the health or the life of the victim is at high risk;
• information is available which, once disseminated, will allow the victim to be located;
• publication of this information is not expected to add to the risk facing the victim;
• there are good reasons to believe that the perpetrator has crossed the border with the child;
• the abduction occurred in a region very close to a border (or even several borders) that can be an escape route for the perpetrator.
To facilitate the launch of a cross-border alert, the Member States would have to agree on a standard message including the following common fields in a predetermined order.
The information provided would be the following: :
• day, time and location of abduction;
• first name of victim and recent picture;
• if possible, information on the person suspected of having carried out the abduction (including description, if any);
• vehicle description (if any).
• a free phone number to be called and e-mail address.
Depending on the means used for dissemination, the message should be available in different formats:
• poster-style written information suitable for printed materials (posters and written press), for display on TV as info-spots and for display on websites;
• recorded vocal messages for television and radio broadcasters, public transport companies and motorways;
• podcasts for internet service providers;
• SMS and/or MMS-compatible written messages for dissemination to mobile phones.
Most of the Member States are of a size that would justify launching the alert at national level. However, depending on the circumstances, more locally focused alerts may be needed. The choice between nationwide or regional/local is a decision to be taken by each Member State.
pdf - Best practice for launching a cross-border child abduction alert
Some History : Commissioner Urges Adoption of French Missing Children System
In France, police alert people within a 15km radius of a missing child reprt with SMSs and emails providing a description and urging vigilance. The zone widens to 30km and further as the investigation continues.
Credit card companies were also urged by the commissioner to adopt Visa Europe's policy of implementing digital protection measures that largel prevent customers from purchasing paedophile material on the internet.
Some 1,800 minors are reported missing each year in Italy, 1,000 in Belgium, 850 in the UK and 70,000 EUwide, according to Brussels statistics.
Frattini's audience at Paris's Elysée Palace included the Kings of Belgium and Sweden plus VIP wives Ludmilla Putin, Margarida Sousa Uva Barroso and Laura Bush and his is part of widereaching EU efforts to reduce child abuse in Europe.
In February, member states will be encouraged to set up a single telephone number 116000 accessible to anyone in the EU to raise the alarm on child abuse. Implementation is set to be tabled before the summer.
in Rapid - European Press Release
Every day hundreds of children go missing in Europe and around the world. Some are never found but fortunately, most children are found within the first 24 hours of their disappearance thanks to the hard work of those dedicated to finding them.
On May 25th 2009, in 10 EU Member States it will be easier for parents to report a missing child, for the public to provide information on a missing child and for a missing child to find its way home.
In Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia help is only a phone call away: 116 000: the European Hotline for Missing Children.
116 000 is a “free-phone” number that is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the majority of the above mentioned countries. Calls are answered locally by trained and professional staff from organizations that were screened and assigned the number. These organizations work nationally and internationally with
police and justice agencies and other organizations dedicated to finding missing children.
They will help find someone who speaks your language, receive information and put you in touch with the local authorities who can help.
While we are proud of having achieved a unified number in 10 EU member states, we would urge the rest of the member states to ensure that 116 000 becomes operational in their countries as soon as possible. Each lost call may be the one that helps a child find its way home.
in Missing Children Europe Press release - 25 May 2009