Lately, there is increased attention regarding missing unaccompanied minor refugees who arrive in the EU from third countries like Afghanistan, Morocco, Algeria, and Syria. It is estimated that at the moment there are approximately 20.000 missing unaccompanied migrant children but this number may be higher because according to the European Commission there is a lack of reliable and complete data from the member States. There is no common definition for unaccompanied minors among the EU member states but there are four common elements for unaccompanied minor refugees to be characterized as missing. At first, he/she has to be missing from the reception facility or shelter where is hosted, and also his/her whereabouts must be unknown. Furthermore, the child should be suddenly unreachable and finally, the disappearance has to be out of character. 

 The reasons why children go missing vary according to Missing Children Europe and Save the Children. A significant number of them leave the centers because they are completely discouraged by the length and the complexity of the asylum or family reunification procedure and the bureaucracy while others fear being sent back home or to the country where they first entered the EU. Moreover, some minors are not satisfied with the conditions and the services provided and they decide to leave to find a better place to stay. Of course, some of them disappear because they are victims of trafficking, including for labor and sexual exploitation, forced begging, and drug smuggling as unaccompanied minors are particularly vulnerable and further exposed to risks of violence, exploitation, and trafficking. Children who go missing often continue their journey to a chosen destination in another EU country or they just have family members, friends, or work network outside the accommodation center. In many cases, they leave because they were refused protection in administration procedures.

The treatment of missing unaccompanied minor refugees in the EU seems to have a lot of gaps and weaknesses. There are discrepancies between existing frameworks in place and practice and also the cooperation between various authorities (police, asylum service, social and child protection authorities) is insufficient. Also, there is no information mechanism for cross-border cooperation. The EU and the member states should protect the rights of refugee and migrant children by increasing pledges to relocate unaccompanied and separated children, especially in Greece, Italy, and Spain. They must establish fast-track reunification procedures for those minors who have relatives in Europe and increase funding to support the states that receive the largest numbers of refugees including unaccompanied minors.

There are non-institutional initiatives that aim to protect unaccompanied children from going missing. The most well-known of them is Missing Children Europe, an organization that supports professionals to protect and empower children through research, training, advocacy, and awareness. They provide various tools such as apps, handbooks, and reports to inform the professionals and the public. Specifically, for migrant children they are running two projects, Miila app, an application tailored to the needs of the children on the move to inform them about the services provided near them and help them learn about their rights as well, and INTERACT, a project aiming to close the protection gaps that lead to disappearance and exploitation of migrant children. 

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