Brussels, 18 February 2009
Two years ago, the European Commission reserved 116000 as a common missing children telephone hotline (IP/07/188) for the entire EU and called on Member States to get it up and running. While last year, the 116000 number was only working in Hungary (IP/08/1129), after repeated calls from the Commission, all EU Member States have today made the number publicly available to hotline providers. The number has also been assigned to service providers in nine Member States, compared to seven last year. 116000 is now a working service in five countries (Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania). It will also be functioning soon in two further countries (Belgium and Slovakia). After having closely monitored that 116000 is reserved by EU countries, as required under EU law, the Commission now calls once again on Member States to support and guide would-be 116000 hotline operators so that parents and children can call 116000 when they need it, everywhere in Europe.
"It is good news that the missing children hotline 116000 is now working in Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania. However, I would have expected a more ambitious approach from other Member States. There is no room or time for complacency when it comes to the safety of our children," said Viviane Reding, EU Telecoms Commissioner. "I am calling on Member States to live up to their responsibilities and inform service providers of the availability of the 116 numbers so we can quickly get the hotlines running across the EU. Beyond legal obligations – which I will continue to enforce vigorously – there is a moral obligation to European parents and children."
Today, the 116 000 EU missing child hotline works in five EU Member States (Greece, Hungary, The Netherlands, Portugal and Romania). In these countries, the number has been assigned to service providers who must be able to handle calls appropriately, free of charge, 24/7, nation-wide. In Hungary, since the introduction of 116000, there have been about 40,000 attempted calls each month, of which the Hungarian hotline, Kék Vonal can answer about 6-7 thousand monthly.
Last year, 116000 proved its added value in a cross-border parental abduction case. In Belgium, a father took his daughters aged seven, ten and fourteen, and hid them for nine and a half months, in very poor and dangerous conditions. In September 2008, following a request from the Belgian and Portuguese 116000 missing children hotlines, the evening news on Portuguese TV channel RTP-TV opened with an appeal for information about these missing children and concluded by showing 116000 full-screen. Minutes after the broadcast, the case was resolved. Implementing 116000 everywhere in Europe would make search campaigns and international cooperation easier and more effective. Hotlines would be able to act in a more coordinated way to resolve cross-border disappearances of children.
The implementation of the two other numbers, 116111 (helplines for children to call for assistance) and 116123 (emotional support lines), reserved in October 2007, is also progressing well.
Sixteen Member States (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden and Slovakia) have assigned 116111, compared to ten last year. Number assignment is ongoing in two countries (Cyprus and Spain). While last year it worked only in Hungary, 116111 is now operational in nine Member States (Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia) and will soon be functioning in five other countries (Greece, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Sweden).
116123, the emotional support hotline, has been assigned to helpline operators in seven Member States (Austria, Germany, Finland, Ireland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia). Number assignment is ongoing in Cyprus. 116123 works in Austria and will soon be in place in three other countries (Germany, Sweden, and Slovenia).
Last July, a progress report from the Commission showed that Member States so far made few efforts to inform potential service providers about the 116 numbers, and called on them to do more (IP/08/1129). In particular, Member States can step up their efforts by providing potential service providers, who usually know little about telecoms matters, with guidance on how to be assigned a number, and give them a single point of contact within a Ministry or a national regulatory authority.
In July 2006, the European Commission proposed to reserve a common telephone number to report missing children (116000) and another for children to call when they need help (116111). This follows the adoption of the EU strategy on the rights of the child (IP/06/927). On 15 February 2007 and 30 October 2007 respectively the Commission decided to reserve 116000 (IP/07/188) and 116111 in all Member States. The decision obliges EU countries to make "116 numbers" publicly available, but does not oblige them to assign the numbers to a service provider or ensure provision of the services.
Further information on 116: