Imagine your home was no longer safe. Imagine your country was war-torn, famine-stricken, and you and your family were witnessing regular murders of people you know and loved. Imagine trying to get your family to safety in Europe. Imagine being separated from your child, your siblings, your cousins. Imagine not being able to contact them. Imagine them disappearing off the grid. Imagine the panic. The fear. Imagine that happening at least 10,000 times in the past year.
In January 2016, Interpol reported that at least 10,000 migrant children travelling to Europe were missing. It is not hard to speculate the potential fate of these children – most of whom were forced to travel unaccompanied – as many are feared to have become victims of trafficking and exploitation. With each passing month, that number is undoubtedly growing. The 10,000 Missing Children Campaign is striving to make the people of Europe aware of the plight of these children. They will also try to force the Justice and Home Affairs council to pay attention this October when they meet to discuss the refugee crisis – 10 months after this shocking number was reported.
The current missing status of 10,000 children is an indefensible breach of a shocking 12 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A privileged European child would have national campaigns begging for their safe return and search parties out in their droves. 10,000 migrant children have fled conditions and situations we cannot even comprehend in this part of the world. Tragedies we are turning a blind eye to. Tragedies we are allowing to continue by not granting them guaranteed safety in our homelands.[pullquote]10,000 migrant children have fled conditions and situations we cannot even comprehend in this part of the world. Tragedies we are turning a blind eye to.[/pullquote]
The campaign is being led by Bray Refugee Solidarity, a small grassroots organisation aiming to put pressure on the Justice and Home Affairs council to take immediate action. Evidence gathered by campaign leaders shows that children arriving in Europe have no access to age-appropriate information on how to seek asylum, no access to a guardian to aid them in understanding rights they have as refugees, or information on the reuinfication process.
They are vulnerable and are actively being discouraged from registering as asylum seekers by smugglers due to the gruelling nature of interviews these children are subjected to – and the fear that they will be sent back. A staggering 50% of children go missing from the Hotspots in Europe within a mere 48 hours of arrival, and this just is a conservative estimate.
[pullquote]The campaign is calling for children to be treated in the manner one would expect a child of an EU member state to be treated[/pullquote]
The 10,000 Missing Children Campaign is aiming to implore EU member states to commit to developing an EU-wide, cohesive policy to ensure these children are protected. The demands are a clear outline requesting that the EU recognise migrant children as children first and foremost, and that the interview process takes into consideration the potential situations these children have fled, such as sexual and gender-based violence.
The campaign is calling for children to be treated in the manner one would expect a child of an EU member state to be treated, with acceptable sleeping and sanitary facilities, adequate lighting, appointment to a suitable guardian and access to appropriate information relevant to their age. The campaign is also insisting on the implementation of a system where families are not separated at borders or at any other point along their journey, and for a cohesive reporting routine to be developed so that missing children are reported immediately to the police using existing national missing children hotlines.
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In order to achieve this, we need you. The 10,000 Missing Children Campaign has liaised with 9 MEPs who have committed to bringing the campaign to parliament in an effort to have it addressed by the European Commission. A campaign video featuring Hozier, Little Green Cars, Wyvern Lingo, John Connors of Love/Hate fame and RTE’s Bláthnaid Treacy has been released today urging people to get behind the campaign.
Sign the petition and spread the word on Facebook, Twitter and everywhere you can today using the hashtags #10000MissingChildren, #EUCalltoAction and #notonourwatch. We cannot allow this to continue to happen. The EC may be turning a blind eye to thousands of voiceless, vulnerable children, but they will not be able to ignore the voices of the thousands calling them to action.