Greece marks International Missing Children's Day, sending message of hope

Source: Xinhua| 2017-05-26 02:02:14|Editor: Zhou Xin

Costas Yannopoulos, President of NGO "Smile of the Child" speaks during a forum on missing children at Zappeion hall in Athens, Greece on May 25, 2017. Greece marked International Missing Children's Day on Thursday, sending a message of hope that public awareness can help save lives. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

by Maria Spiliopoulou

ATHENS, May 25 (Xinhua) -- Greece marked International Missing Children's Day on Thursday, sending a message of hope that public awareness can help save lives.

During a conference at Zappeion hall in the center of Athens organized by the "Smile of the Child", a Greek NGO which over the past two decades holds a leading role in defending children's rights in Greece, officials presented the latest data on missing children in Greece and the actions and initiatives taken to prevent and tackle the phenomenon.

"Throughout 2016 according to the official numbers, statistics, 241 children went missing. In 2017, until May 15, 2017 there are 125 children reported missing," Nikos Zervakakos, commanding officer of the Missing Persons'Unit of Greek Police, told Xinhua.

The majority of these disappearances concern Greek children who are followed by Albanian nationals, Bulgarians and Romanians and are linked to family issues, he said.

The Greek law enforcement officer stressed that in the overwhelming majority, such cases are solved in Greece. In 2016 and 2017, 84 percent of children were found, while in previous years the average stood at 97 percent, he said.

"It is an honor and pride for us that Greece ranks first in Europe in resolving the disappearances of children and holds one of the high positions in world rankings," Zervakakos said.

Prevention, of course, is always the best solution, the experienced officer underlined, advising parents to never lose sight of their kids in particularly in crowded areas and teach children from a very young age to not panic and cry for help, in case they cannot see their parents.

The mobilization of the entire society is of crucial importance in reconnecting children with their families, Dimitris Anagnostakis, general secretary of the Public Order Ministry, stressed at the forum.

"With a single call to the European hotline for missing children 116000, we can provide a clue to competent authorities that can be of vital importance in locating and saving a child," Anagnostakis said.

"Something very important is happening in Greece in the middle of the Greek crisis and the refugee crisis. We join forces with the government institutions like police fire brigade, the Coast Guard etc to fight and to work quickly when a child is missing," Costas Yannopoulos, the NGO's president, told Xinhua.

With almost 20,000 refugee and migrant children stranded in Greece after the closure of northern borders to central Europe in 2016, including 2,000 unaccompanied minors, the Greek authorities and NGOs try hard to offer assistance to these vulnerable kids, he added.

The numbers on missing refugee and migrant children are not clear. According to Europol police agency, about 10,000 unescorted children registered after arriving in Europe over the past three years have disappeared somewhere in Europe.

During Thursday's event, experts on crimes against children and volunteers shared good practices in search and rescue of missing children, while outside Zappeion hall were presented the ambulances and trained dogs who are at the disposal of authorities and volunteer groups in the case of a missing child.

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KEY WORDS: Children