Cyprus Mail

Child disappearance protocol wasn’t used in case of missing Sierra

Mary Rose Tiburcio, and her daughter Sierra

Humanitarian organisation Hope for Children on Monday urged all stakeholders to better use existing mechanisms better in order to save children’s lives following what might turn out to be two significant lapses in the system.

The appeal was made since the disappearance of a 6-year-old girl who is believed to have been killed in May 2018 was only discovered last week when the body of her mother Mary Rose Tiburcio was found in a mine shaft in Mitsero, and after it was revealed that a 16-year-old boy who died earlier this month was possibly a victim of bullying.

“The inadequate use of specialised programmes designed by various governmental and non-governmental organisations has been observed, as they are either not systematically used or there are obstacles to their holistic implementation on a large scale, since prevention is rarely a priority for the competent bodies,” the statement said.

Regarding the disappearance of children, the NGO called on police to use the child alert mechanism.

In Cyprus, it is 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 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 has been issued, with the child’s photo and details such as where they were last seen, it is disseminated through local media – press, TV, radio, social media, SMS and through a special mobile application.

“Although the abovementioned procedure has been laid out and agreed upon, it is unfortunately not generally applied, as it has not been applied in the case of the 6-year-old who is still missing,” Hope for Children stressed. “The immediate and effective activation of available mechanisms is vital, especially in cases where children are involved and an immediate response can save lives.”

With regard to the 16-year-old, who died at a party after consuming alcohol and choking on his vomit, the organisation said there is a need to introduce measures to prevent and deal with harmful behaviour among children and teenagers, including the use of alcohol and drugs, school bullying, discrimination and violence.

“Addressing such phenomena requires holistic and coordinated interventions and activation of all people involved directly or indirectly in children’s lives. The need for legislative reforms and their implementation, for example with regard to the purchase and consumption of alcohol by minors, is imperative and necessary.”

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