Since 1982, every May 25th we celebrate International Missing Children’s Day, in order to remember the families and children who have been affected, as well as creating awareness about the need to implement efforts to resolve on-going cases.
Yearly commemoration began on this date after the disappearance of a 6 year old boy in New York City in 1981 and it is estimated that every year around 70,000 families worldwide experience the pain of a child going missing, not including short-lived disappearances or false alarms. Missing children are usually found in either the hands of the Mafia, victims of sexual exploitation or coerced into begging in the streets, or with one of their own parents, who has kidnapped them in order to separate them from the other spouse, an issue which is not only complex, but is becoming more common.
Currently, countries like Australia, Canada, Brazil, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Romania, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom belong to the Global Missing Children’s Network. The objective of this network is to raise awareness and spread the message throughout the world about the impact of missing children, as well as helping to resolve these kinds of cases.
The European Union has investigated the possibility of creating an alert system for abducted or missing children as a result of cases such as that of the missing British girl Madeleine McCann, a system which, according to European Justice Ministers, would only apply in specific cases and without making generalizations. Currently, the Department of Genetic Identification in the University of Granada, in Spain, is working in conjunction with the University of North Texas, in the United States, on a computing application to search for missing children. If the system is a success it could be distributed for free at the start of 2012 to more than 10 countries in total.
This project is a part of the international programme DNA-Prokids, which was founded in 2004 with the aim of resolving cases of human trafficking using genetic identification of people in indefensible situations and families who have reported someone missing. Since the programme started, 317 families in countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico and Guatemala have been brought together, families who have lost people due to natural disasters, or cases linked to sexual or labour exploitation.
(Translated by Marie-Thérèse Slorach)