21 April 2021 - Belgium, Brussels

‘Chilling to the bone that thousands of migrant children are missing in Europe’

With over 18,000 migrant children reportedly gone missing in Europe since 2018, Save the Children urges the European Union and its members to do better in ensuring the safety and protection of migrant and refugee children.

Anita Bay Bundegaard, EU-director for Save the Children in Brussels, said: 

“It’s simply chilling to the bone that so many children, who often undertook extremely dangerous journeys to get to safety and find a future in Europe, are unaccounted for. It is truly one of the big shames of Europe, and it is against European values that its member states can’t come together and secure the safety and protection of its most vulnerable.”

“Many children never make it to Europe, but if they finally do, they often get stranded – around 40,000 children are stranded in the Balkans. Children have to endure horror on the Greek islands, where on average ten thousand children were stuck on any given day in the last year. Ten thousand children, the majority younger than twelve. That means ten thousand children missing out on their favourite meals, a quality education, their dreams.

“We know from experience that children in Europe often go missing because of lengthy family reunification procedures – these take far too long, so children will try and reach relatives living in other European countries. That means they often travel on their own, avoiding authorities as they do not trust police officers at borders. They move underground because there is no legal way to find safety from conflicts and violence.

“All of this is strengthening the networks of smugglers and traffickers, who are glad to ‘help’ – for a price, and at great cost to children’s safety and protection. We simply don’t know if the children reach their family members, or disappear through underground networks forever.

“Children should have full access to services, including formal education, health and social services regardless of their migration status, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

The organisation also said that EU member states must always act with the best interests of children in mind – including children having access to lawyers, guardians and family reunification procedures,  without fear of border guards or expulsions.   


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