An influential coalition of children’s’ rights charities, including ECPAT UK, have today called on EU and national ministers to end the disappearance, suffering and exploitation of children in migration.

The call today arises from recommendations made at the Lost in Migration conference earlier this year, hosted by Missing Children Europe and the Maltese President's Foundation.

At the conference, 160 professionals from across Europe took stock of the situation and the current challenges of this children’s rights crisis, making 17 recommendations essential to improving the situation of migrant children in Europe who frequently go missing.

Children make up 30% of all those seeking protection in Europe. More than half of them are younger than 14.  According to Europol, at least 10 000 unaccompanied migrant children have disappeared in Europe in 2015 within hours of being registered, and only a handful have been found since.

ECPAT UK joined with charities Missing People and The Children’s Society to lead a workshop at the conference on the UK context. Based on its own ground-breaking research, Heading Back to Harm, ECPAT UK’s session called for improvement in the UK approach to trafficked, unaccompanied and separated children who go missing from care. Children who go missing, even for very short periods of time, face significant risks, and trafficked and unaccompanied children may face increased risks compared with other missing children.

Endorsed by 45 children’s rights organisations, the Lost in Migration conference recommendations include 10 operational and policy recommendations and 7 cross-cutting recommendations on the overall policy framework, data and funding.

The recommendations cover improving accommodation and reception conditions, ensuring access to trained guardians for children, the right for children to be heard and informed, and more. 

These conclusions will be shared with the national justice and home affairs, ministers of EU Member States and the Permanent Representations at the EU today. Policies will then be monitored over the next year to see whether progress has been made to protect children in light of these proposals.

Andrea Simon, Campaigns and Policy Officer at ECPAT UK, said:

“The Lost in Migration conference highlighted the desperate circumstances for lone migrant children in Europe. Many thousands of children have simply disappeared from state care, exposing huge deficits in European child protection systems. Here in the UK, the government must urgently examine ways we can prevent and respond to trafficked and unaccompanied children going missing. Policy makers and decision makers across Europe should look to these recommendations to protect and uphold the rights of migrant children.”