New missing children hotline may help with cross-border cases
The Czech Republic now has a telephone hotline for families of missing children, with a Europe-wide phone number, in partnership with a European network working to help find missing or runaway children and support their families. This week, the non-profit organization Lost Child (Ztracené dítě) received certification to use the 116 000 hotline, which already exists in 22 other European countries.
Last year, the Czech police was called in to look for more than 5.5 thousand children under the age of 18. The success rate in finding missing children is currently at 98 percent. But the head of the Crime Prevention Department of the Interior Ministry, Jitka Gjuričová, says there also needs to be another line of assistance in these situations.
“The police is there to investigate and solve a case, but officers are not fully trained to speak to the people directly emotionally affected by the developing situation.”
“There are a number of other similar hotlines in the Czech Republic, which are called Safety Hotlines, but the calls made to this new unified European hotline are free of charge, unlike the other existing phone numbers.”
Being part of a Europe-wide effort also offers Lost Child, and the Czech Interior Ministry that has supported the initiative, the possibility to give better support in cases that reach beyond the Czech borders. Delphine Moralis, the secretary general of the umbrella organization Missing Children Europe, which has been the main engine behind Europe-wide efforts in this field, told me why the European Commission feels there is such a deep need for a single phone number.
Within months, all but one EU member state should have the same hotline set up, allowing for easier cooperation and access for clients. The Czech side says it is also ready to assist local callers in some foreign languages, although a comprehensive protocol for such calls had not been put into place yet.