LYON, France – Enhancing awareness of mechanisms to better address international child abductions was the focus of a meeting at INTERPOL’s General Secretariat headquarters.
Bringing together some 150 participants from 20 countries, the symposium was attended by representatives from government, law enforcement, the legal and judicial sectors, and the European Union, as well as national and regional bodies and NGOs.
It was co-organized by INTERPOL, France’s Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Police (ENSP) and the Notarial Centre for European Law (ACENODE), with support from the Faculty of Law of Lyon 3 University.
The Vice-President of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness, the Mediator for International Parental Child Abduction, said in a video address: “Time is of the essence when a child is abducted and separated from a parent. In an increasingly mobile world, it is clear that all actors at national and transnational level will have to work better together to find speedier solutions. Today’s conference helps to raise awareness of this complex issue and I hope will give rise to an increasingly, and much needed, holistic approach to child abduction.”
By gathering specialists from different areas of work linked to the topic, the event aimed to develop a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and enhance collective awareness and synergies on responses to child abductions.
With child abduction of increasing concern for civil society and the international law enforcement community in an increasingly globalized, interconnected world, the symposium highlighted the various forms of child abduction, including criminal abductions, parental abductions and children being taken to conflict zones.
Hélène Martini, Director of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Police (ENSP), said: "The human consequences of international child abductions are immense for the victims and their families. I am convinced that thanks to the diversity and quality of the speakers of the symposium, together we will better mobilize against these acts and increase awareness, including through training."
The symposium was also addressed by the President of French victims association APEV, Alain Boulay, and by the Vice-President of French notary body le Conseil Supérieur du Notariat, Didier Coiffard.
Delphine Moralis, Secretary General, Missing Children Europe underlined ‘the importance of a comprehensive approach on missing children’, making the best use of different complementary tools available to tackle the issues addressed. “These tools include INTERPOL‘s Yellow Notices as well as missing children hotlines, specialized family mediators, child protection responses and child alert systems, that all need to work in close coordination, at national and transnational level,” said Ms Moralis.
INTERPOL’s Assistant Director for Vulnerable Communities, Michael Moran, highlighted the existence of its international database on missing persons that alerts its 190 member countries in real time about an abduction through its Yellow Notice, in order to prevent suspects crossing borders with their victims.
“INTERPOL’s Yellow Notice are essential in giving high international visibility to cases of abducted and missing persons; these are flagged to border officials, making travel difficult. Member countries can also request and share critical information linked to police investigations,” said Mr Moran.
The conference recommended that INTERPOL’s system of Notices and capabilities be used promptly in coordination with alerts in the Schengen Information System and to their maximum degree in all cases of missing children including those involving unaccompanied minors and parental abduction.
In this respect INTERPOL’s I-24/7 global police secure communications system connects law enforcement officers in all its member countries. It enables authorized users to share sensitive and urgent police information with their counterparts around the globe on a 24/7 basis.
A further recommendation was that an annual meeting of specialists in missing children be organised involving all stakeholders under the auspices of the INTERPOL specialist group on crimes against children.
At the request of member countries, nearly 8,000 Yellow Notices have currently been issued in missing persons cases worldwide.