elefono Azzurro president Ernesto Caffo, at a conference on protecting unaccompanied migrant children. Credit: ANSA/CLAUDIO PERI
elefono Azzurro president Ernesto Caffo, at a conference on protecting unaccompanied migrant children. Credit: ANSA/CLAUDIO PERI

The number of cases of unaccompanied foreign minors who have disappeared in Europe has risen over the last few years. The telephone number 116000 can be used EU-wide to report foreign children who have become untraceable or have been found.

In the European Union, the disappearance of unaccompanied foreign minors is a "major phenomenon" that has grown over the last few years, according to Telefono Azzurro. The charity runs projects for unaccompanied foreign minors including the telephone service 116000 that is active in 28 countries. It can be used to report foreign children who have become untraceable or have been found. 


Number of untraceable foreign minors increases in Europe 

The number 116000 is part of the European Missing Children network made up of 29 NGOs from 24 countries that manage as many numbers for reporting missing children. During a conference in Rome, Telefono Azzurro reported that as of November 30, 2017, 18,508 unaccompanied foreign minors were registered in Italy, of whom 17,217 boys and the majority aged between 15 and 17. 

From 2012 to 2016, the number of unaccompanied foreign minors who were untraceable rose from 1,754 to 6,508. 

"31 percent of these minors are eventually found, but only when their plan to escape fails," said Rosalba Ceravolo, coordinator for the 116000 telephone service for Italy. Flight exposes the youngsters to various risks including human trafficking, abuse, labor and sexual exploitation. 

"In 2016, approximately 60 percent of the reports handled by our service concerned cases of missing unaccompanied foreign minors, and in 2017, approximately one-third of our activity was focused on this group." 

Project to strengthen links between institutions 

During the Rome event, Telefono Azzurro also presented the results of the pilot project JUST aiming to boost the service 116000 within the Italian child protection system. Roundtable discussions were held with various stakeholders in five prefectures, Treviso, Milan, Naples, Reggio Calabria and Ragusa, revealing the need to speed up bureaucracy, provide specialist training for operators and create synergies between the institutions. 

"The thousands of children who have disappeared in Italy and in Europe give the idea of a problem that needs to be tackled," said Telefono Azzurro President Ernesto Caffo. "This is certainly the thrust of this project, which allows us to create a pathway to inclusion for these youngsters that might protect them from trafficking and all forms of exploitation."
 

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