By Evie Andreou
ONLY three out of the eight children reported as missing in Cyprus last year were found, Hope for Children said on Friday during the launch of the Child Abduction Alert mechanism.
This is a tool used to alert the public in cases of worrying or life-threatening disappearances of children and to reinforce the efforts of the police.
In Cyprus, it will be operated by the Hope for Children non-governmental organisation and SPAVO, which are also co-operating on the European Hotline for Missing Children – 116000.
As soon as the 116000 hotline operator receives a local or international call for a missing child, the system will inform the police which will investigate whether the child’s life or health is in danger and that he or she is in Cyprus.
After securing permission from at least one parent or guardian of the child, the police will then give permission to the hotline’s operator to issue the Alert.
As soon as it is issued, with the child’s photo and details (last, clothing, etc.) it is disseminated through local media – press, TV, radio – social media, SMS and through a special mobile application.
Information on missing children in Cyprus will also be published through the search engine and the Google Public Alerts.
The alert is activated when the child is missing from home or is kidnapped by one of the parents. Furthermore police can also give the green light for the alert in cases of disappearance of unescorted children, kidnappings and disappearances of injured children.
In cases when children are being abducted by their parents, the Alert is not issued, unless there is suspicion that the parent is threatening the child’s life or health.
In many cases, the alert is issued in cross-border cases when there is suspicion that the child is in another country or if authorities are not sure where he or she may be located.
Members of the public play a very important role because they can provide crucial information, especially during the first minutes of a child’s disappearance, said Antonis Stylianou, board member of the Hope for Children.
The head of SPAVO, Kiki Poyadji, said that the tool will reinforce efforts to locate missing children, through the prompt dissemination of information through the media, which increase chances of locating them.
Police representative Costas Veis said that the mechanism will be sparingly used and in extraordinary cases. He added that great care is needed in the dissemination of personal information of missing children.
Benefits, exceed costs, he said.
The project is funded by the European Parliament and the Council’s programme, Daphne III as part of the General Programme “Fundamental Rights and Justice”.