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Missing children and child alert mechanisms

The 116 000 hotline has been designed to report missing children and provide social support services for children and families when a child goes missing.

The child alert mechanisms aim to alert the public in cases of child abduction and where the life of a child is at risk.

A strong commitment to missing children

The 116 000 hotline is now operational in all 28 member States.

More information about 116 000 hotlines in Europe

A history of 116 000 hotlines in Europe

In February 2007, the Commission adopted a Decision requiring EU countries to reserve the six-digit number range starting with 116 for services of social value in the EU. 116 000 was the first telephone number reserved in all EU countries as a hotline to report missing children.
The revised Universal Service Directive, adopted in 2009, introduced new obligations for the EU countries concerning the 116 000 hotline. It adds a specific obligation for the EU countries to "make every effort to ensure that citizens have access to the 116 000 hotline service". The deadline for implementing these obligations expired on 25 May 2011.
In November 2010 the Commission adopted a Communication 'Dial 116 000: The European hotline for missing children'. Its objective is:

  • to renew the call on the EU countries to implement the missing children hotline as a matter of priority;
  • to ensure the same high quality of service throughout the EU.

Child alert mechanisms

The child alert mechanism alerts the public by disseminating relevant information in the hours after the disappearance of a child. Child alert systems are set up in the event of worrying disappearances and criminal abduction. All possible electronic means are used (e-mails, sms, illuminated sigs on highway, flash information on radio and television).

Currently, a child alert system is in place in 17 EU countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Improving the early warning system

Resolving cross-border abduction or disappearance cases will be easier, once the early warning system for child abductions is operational in all 28 EU countries.  And this is the Commission's objective.

The conclusions of the Justice and Home Affairs Council (27-28 November 2008) went in this direction and invited EU countries:

•    to establish and develop national mechanisms to alert the public in the event of criminal abductions of children;
•    to define the national implementing arrangements ensuring that cross-border alerts are triggered.
These arrangements should be introduced on the basis of the best practices developed by the Commissionpdf Choose translations of the previous link .