Fourteen EU member states still have to make the Europe-wide 116 000 hotline for missing children operational, the European Commission announced today. In the United Kingdom, the hotline is available for landline users, but not yet from all mobile networks.
The hotline provides a single number for missing children and their parents to call for help anywhere in the EU. Having the same hotline will help children and parents in trouble get help when away from home, such as during family holidays.
Today's report is the Commission's last call to member states to implement the missing children hotline as a matter of priority. It also indentifies obstacles in implementing the hotline and provides practical solutions to governments that have not yet made the number operational.
"The disappearance of a child is always a tragedy and in some cases their life may even be at risk. The 116 000 number offers help, support and a potential lifeline for missing children and their parents," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.
"Every child and every parent should remember just one number instead of 27 national ones. Citizens should also expect that their requests are treated in a similar way no matter where in Europe they call the 116 hotline. I call on Member States to make every effort to implement the hotline swiftly to put children’s safety and security first."
The 116 000 hotline is fully implemented in only 12 member states (the first country to make the number functioning was Portugal in 2007) and still has to be made fully operational in Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovenia and Sweden.
The Commission will also organise high-level meetings with all stakeholders every year until the hotline is operational in all 27 EU countries. The meetings will raise awareness, allow exchanges of best practice and identify practical tools to ensure the hotline is operational and offers a high-quality service. These meetings will be held around 25 May every year to mark International Missing Children’s Day and to express solidarity with missing children and their families.
In May 2010, 116 000 was allocated to the UK charity Missing People and its chosen communications provider BT and is now operational alongside Missing People's existing numbers.
A high profile launch is expected in April 2012, at which time 116 000 will become Missing People's prime contact number, replacing the promotion of the existing three helpline numbers.