Missing children are amongst the most vulnerable groups in our society. Runaways, children abducted by a parent and missing children in migration constitute the vast majority of missing children cases reported in Europe every year. It is clear that with the number of people fleeing war and violence hoping to find safety in Europe, a new challenge has arisen for organisations concerned with the welfare of children; the protection of children and youth who often arrive without their family and are particularly exposed to the risk of trafficking, exploitation and going missing. Thus, the investigation of missing children cases and the protection of unaccompanied children in migration, two seemingly irrelevant issues, are two sides of the same coin.
ChildRescue envisions re-engineering missing children investigations by introducing a novel combination of diverse technologies and taking advantage of the wide use of social media and mobile apps. At the same time, it will enhance the cooperation among organisations who are responsible for the care of migrants. Through a unified registration system, the tracking of migrant children who moved to a new facility will be faster, as well as the detection and reporting of disappearance cases, saving valuable time.
Our initial approach was to “translate” the existing organisation processes in a machine-friendly way, run through possible scenarios of children who have gone missing or who seek shelter and identify how ChildRescue could contribute (see deliverable D1.1) to them.
For example, in order to support the investigations for a child that was reported missing to the authorities, ChildRescue must go beyond a simple case registration: it will provide a collaboration tool for search and rescue teams and send alerts to the ChildRescue users who are near a search area and enable citizens to instantly share valuable information on the case. It will also attempt to estimate possible routes of the child based on their social media profiles and posts, family testimonies and other sources. Another indicative example is that of an unaccompanied migrant child not showing up in a hosting facility: ChildRescue will serve as a communication tool, so that the child is found faster, especially in case she/he moved to a new hosting facility on her/his own initiative. For certain organisations like the Hellenic Red Cross, if a natural disaster or an emergency happens and migrant children accommodated in their hosting facilities go missing, then their case will be treated in the same manner as in the first example.
Scenarios such as the above, were analysed step by step to define exactly how the ChildRescue platform will be used and by whom. As we realised, not all of the functionalities will be used in every case. Following the existing procedures of the organisations, these functionalities were divided into 4 individual stages (profiling, coordination-collaboration, action and archiving), which can occur independently, whenever and if they are needed.
In essence, ChildRescue’s intention is not to create new processes in missing children investigations but rather to provide a platform to collaborate more efficiently and with the use of the technological solutions available to us now. ChildRescue is currently being developed and will be launched in 2020.