Story of change

Kasim was worried. It had been a month since his father, Abdul, had become separated from the rest of the family in the chaos of the Greek-Macedonian border, and no one had heard from him ever since. His mother had diabetes and his brother suffered from a mental disorder that had worsened during their journey. To make matters worse, both mother and brother had run out of medication and had no way of accessing medication while in the camp in Greece.

Kasim felt the burden of responsibility on his weary shoulders in the absence of his father. Kasim’s father was always able to reassure everyone that they would find a better life in Europe. Without him, Kasim started to fear for his future and that of his family’s. He missed the calm, reassuring presence of his father. Kasim tried to look for Abdul several times, but he often got discouraged. Kasim didn’t know who to talk to, and was afraid to put his father’s journey at risk.

He wanted desperately to be able to help his family, but he did not speak any English or Greek. Starting to become hopeless, Kasim wondered if he should leave the camp in search for a job to make money to help his family. He had heard from some of the older boys, that there were men around the camp who could give kids jobs.

When the Smile of the Child, the Greek member of Missing Children Europe, one day started asking around the camp for the family of Abdul, Kasim couldn’t believe his ears. He tried desperately with the help of a translator to explain his situation. He heard about how desperately his father had been searching for his family from Serbia.  Kasim finally had some hope.

Missing Children Europe’s Serbian member Astra had first been contacted by a desperate Abdul who was beyond himself for the safety of his family. Astra then contacted The Smile of the Child, sharing the details and pictures of the case. Anxious about his family and their health issues, Abdul had informed a social worker in Serbia about the situation and the urgency to get reunited with them as soon as possible.

A few days later, the Smile of the Child had located the family and stepped in to offer the urgent medical care needed by the mother and the brother. They immediately connected the family with the authorities responsible for family reunification and the associated legal procedures. Meanwhile, in Serbia, Abdul was kept up to date by Astra. Three weeks after the first call to Astra, Abdul and his family were reunited.

The story of Kasim is a great example of how effective cross-border cooperation can save lives and better protect children in migration. Unfortunately, many cases of disappearances of children in migration do not have happy endings.

Children like Kasim, especially if unaccompanied, are at a greater risk of starvation, homelessness, exploitation, abuse, and being forced into criminal networks in Europe. With limited safe and legal ways to move across countries, children are left vulnerable to leaving protection and being exploited.

Through the Amina programme, Missing Children Europe and its partners, including the Smile of the Child in Greece, want to ensure that cases such as Kasim’s are systematically and efficiently resolved. The project will fundamentally improve the day-to-day efforts of professionals working on cross border cases of (unaccompanied) children at risk in Europe. Based on two fictional cases of migrant children, practical tools will be built to improve cross-border exchange of intelligence and follow up on transnational cases.