Looking for Abena and Qiro across the EU: Missing Children Europe and partners work towards ending exploitation of children in migration with fictional cases 

Abena is a young girl who was forced to leave Eritrea when confronted with an impossible choice as she approached her 14th birthday: being forcibly married to a 35 year man or enrol in the military. She decided to escape with her brother and embarked on a dreadful journey to Europe, but they ended up being separated and Abena arrived alone to Italy.

Qiro is a 15-year-old, Iraqi Kurdish boy who was forced to flee his country when the bombing in his town intensified rapidly. He arrived at the shores of Greece by himself after being separated from his parents in Turkey.

Abena and Qiro have gone missing since arriving in Europe and are thought to be at risk of trafficking and exploitation.

Today is EU Antitrafficking day. During the week leading up to it, NGOs, migration authorities, police forces and local authorities in six EU countries (Greece, Italy, France, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Sweden) have been working together to solve the disappearances of Abena and Qiro. They have made real time judgement calls on how to cooperate with partners within and outside of the country, drawing on their knowledge and expertise to respond appropriately to reports of them going missing.

Abena and Quiro are fictitious, but their situation is similar to thousands of boys and girls at risk of starvation, homelessness and being forced into criminal networks in Europe. With limited safe and legal ways to move across countries, towards and within Europe, unaccompanied children like Abena and Quiro are vulnerable to going missing and being exploited.

These ongoing simulations are happening in the framework of the AMINA programme, coordinated by Missing Children Europe and with the support of the H&M Foundation. The project is a cross-border collaboration that aims to improve the protection of unaccompanied and separated children in Europe by addressing existing challenges and gaps at the operational, legal and political levels.

Thanks to this project, Missing Children Europe and its partners will be able to identify the gaps in the knowledge and practice of frontline agencies and organisations in Europe in their coordinated response to cases of missing unaccompanied and separated children. The exercise will establish relationships that will lead to enhanced knowledge sharing across borders, and to develop practical toolkits that frontline professionals across Europe can use to ensure children are protected from traffickers and people who mean them harm. The toolkit will include checklists, suggested procedures, modules for cooperation, and a contact guide to facilitate co-operation between services.

About Missing Children Europe

Missing Children Europe (MCE) is the European federation for missing and sexually exploited children, representing 31 organisations in 27 European countries. We provide the link between research, policies and organisations on the ground to protect children from any kind of violence, abuse or neglect that is caused by or results from them going missing. 
Partners in this project are:
Belgium: Child Focus, Belgian Foreign Office and Federal Public Service (FPS) of Home Affairs
Italy: Telefono Azzurro
Greece: The Smile of the Child, the Office of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs-Hellenic Republic
United Kingdom: ECPAT UK, the Home Office and Modern Slavery Unit
France: ECPAT France and SPRENE
Sweden: The Child Rights Bureau (Barnrättsbyrån) and The County Administrative Board of Stockholm (Länsstyrelse)

Media contact:
Federica Toscano
Head of Programme - Children in Migration, Missing Children Europe
+32 2 894 74 53