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Southeastern European Centre for Missing and Exploited Children was opened in Athens

13 October 2010 / 13:10:07  GRReporter
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Fight against children kidnapping, Internet child pornography and trafficking of minors will be the main task of the Southeastern European Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, which was established in Athens and inaugurated by the Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas. The centre is the result of the cooperation between the Greek organization The Smile of the Child and the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.

It will work together with similar organizations in neighbouring countries and with the media. It will activate the AMBER ALERT system to inform the citizens and it is included in the European line for missing children – 116000. The centre will cooperate with authorities and it will also support psychologically children and their families.

The aim of the Southeastern European Centre for Missing and Exploited Children is to prevent child kidnapping, disappearance,  exploitation of children, to prevent and fight against illicit trafficking of minors, to help find missing children, to coordinate the activities between several countries in cases of kidnapping when it is assumed that a child has become a victim of trafficking and is transferred to another country, to support minor victims and their families and to cooperate with public and private organizations.
Part of the funds to construct the building of the centre were donated by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. During the official ceremony the association of translators for the services offered to the centre, the company Mercedes for providing ambulances with modern equipment, the police officer Alain Remy and other personalities supporting the mission of the organization The Smile of the Child with their activities were awarded for their aid for the creation of the centre and for their cooperation with the organization The Smile of the Child. "Every day thousands of children disappear around the world and 1.2 million are missing," said the Chairman of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children James Cannavino. He also added that according to the data, every one out of seven children aged 10-17 years and using the Internet was attempted to be sexually abducted.  
"We are very proud to welcome the opening of the Southeastern European Centre for Missing and Exploited Children and strongly encourage the establishment of regional centres around the world to make it safer for our children," said Mr. Cannavino during the opening ceremony of the centre which was held in the Municipality of Amarusios district in Athens. He said that the centre in Belgium was established in early 1990s following the Ditru case. It shocked the public in 1996 as Ditru - unemployed electrician with three children – has abducted, raped and murdered unknown number of teenage girls for years. More than 300,000 Belgians then went out the streets on the so-called ‘White demonstration’. The Belgian Prime Minister left for the U.S.A., where he attended the Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, and when he returned to his country the Centre for abused and missing children in Brussels was created, added Cannavino. The directors of all national centres met in 1997 and decided to establish an International Centre, whose board of directors met for the first time in the spring of 1998.  

"800,000 children under the age of 18 disappear each year in the U.S.A., which means 2100 children every day. One in five girls and one in ten boys become victims of sexual abuse before the age of 18 but only one in three shares what happened and a very few are those who complain in court... According to the New Hampshire University, one out of every seven children aged between 10 and 17 becomes the subject of sexual attacks over the Internet. Child pornography on the Internet is a profitable industry. I often use ‘evidence of CSI’ instead of ‘child pornography’, because child pornography means that violence was resorted to the child ... The child becomes a victim of sexual violence once, but every time someone looks at his or her picture, he or she becomes a victim of sexual violence again and again...

Only 45 out of 196 countries in the world have laws related to child pornography in electronic network," said James Cannavino.

Subsequently, the chairman of the organization The Smile of the Child Kostas Giannopoulos expressed his gratefulness to representatives of police, justice, the state, volunteers and employees in The Smile of the Child for their support and work. "It all started from a small child - my 10-year-old son Andreas, who had cancer of the head and his last wish was a centre to be created where there will be no discrimination for children in relation to gender, nationality, race." Now the last will of the small Andreas is getting real in scale that nobody was expecting in the beginning. The Smile of the Child has a SOS hotline number 1056 for children that have become victims of violence. The phone number operates 24 hours a day and they can talk with psychologists, teachers and the staff of the National Centre for Social Solidarity (EKKA). In Greece the organization supports the operation of 10 homes for children in danger, two homes for children from families with serious social or financial problems, one home for children having cancer - House of Marinos. The organization has modern ambulances all around Greece to safely transport children and infants and provides psychological support to children with serious problems all over Greece. Mr. Giannopoulos stated that centres for missing and exploited children will be opened in Thessaloniki and Patras too. He announced the statistics on disappeared children in Europe, according to which 105 000 children were reported missing in Britain, 8400 in Spain, 1100 in Italy, 50 000 in Germany, 39 000 in France and 396 in Greece.

"Greece, because of its geographic location, is a country through which child victims of trafficking pass and enter Europe. All police officers should be informed and trained to cope with serious cases like the one that happened a few days ago, when a 10-year-old child of Gypsy origin was kidnapped. Subsequently, the child was found in a serious condition after being raped by many people," added Mr. Giannopoulos, saying that the purpose of the newly opened Centre is to find a way that no child could be abducted. "Everyone should know that when a child disappears, you must notify the competent authorities and The Smile of the Child,” he said.

"We, as a town hall, have decided to cooperate with The Smile of the Child because we believe that their fight is very important – the fight to provide better living conditions for the children," said the Mayor of Amarusios George Patoulis. "The data are striking - in 2008 28,000 children in Greece became victims of violence or sexual abuse each year. One of every four children that were hospitalized because they were battered is under the age of five; 8% remained disabled and 50% fail to recover mentally from the trauma.

We have a law that domestic violence is considered a criminal offense, but we have a long way to go from law to reality. Children sale, as data prove, unfortunately, is the third most profitable of the illegal activities in the world after the drug and weapon trade," said Mr. Patoulis. He added that the centre will fill a major gap and will primarily deal with prevention of kidnapping and illegal trafficking of children, finding the children and supporting them to overcome the trauma.

"Our view is that prevention is better than therapy," said the Deputy Secretary General of the organization Missing Children Europe Delphine Moralis. She announced the bad news that many children do not appear in the statistics because nobody is looking for them. Daniel Ezra, the head of the mission of the International Organisation for Migration in Greece, added to her words the data for Greece, saying that eight out of ten children who disappeared in Greece are children of immigrants. "The worst thing is that these children are not recorded anywhere and no one will look for them," said Mr. Ezra.

"Children are very important for us in Interpol and they are our priority from five years on," said the head of the special department for crimes against children at Interpol and inspector at the department of disappearances in the Belgian police Alain Remy. "We have defined four fields of interest:  

- Identification of child victims in child pornography. Each photo is evidence of a crime.

- Trafficking, sex tourism, prostitution

- Internet has made crimes against children easier

- Criminals involved in the offenses with children who we warn that the time will come when the police will knock on their door

The motto of Interpol is: think globally, act locally. The newly opened centre in Athens is a very good example of this," said Mr. Remy. Having serious experience, Mr. Remy said that there are three rules when the police take up cases of missing children:

- Each case is different and routine is the worst for the police officer

- Timing is crucial - the first 24 hours are the most important because you can not lose time. We can no longer tell a parent to wait, because the child will be home within 12 hours

- Never ignore anything! We are fighting against crimes against our children, because children victims of crimes are our children."

The Southeastern European Centre for Missing and Exploited Children is coordinated by the organization The Smile of the Child which initiated its creation on the base of the respective International Centre (International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children).

Tags: NewsSocietyMissing childrenInternetExploitation
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