By Adéle Land
Almería is the third most notorious province for child disappearances, according to a report published this month.
Data released by the National Missing Persons Centre and the Ministry of the Interior, shows there are currently 211 unsolved cases of missing minors in the province.
In total, between 2010 and 2017, there were 343 cases of missing persons, including adults which are yet to be solved – only Cádiz and Granada reported higher numbers in the Andalucía region.
Of the 343 cases, only six were considered ‘high risk’ cases, but although any case of a missing child is ‘high-risk’ by nature, none of the 211 officially fell into this category.
The recent case of Gabriel Cruz, the boy whose body was found some 12 days after his disappearance, brought the subject to the public eye, with the story being relayed on international news.
According to police investigations, one of the reasons for the higher instances of minors reported missing is the large numbers of migrants arriving in the province, many landing on beaches in dinghies. The migrants are processed and held in temporary reception centres operated by the Samu Foundation, a child protection charity.
Nicolás Torres, manager of the temporary reception centres, told the Spanish press that minors often escape from the centres and are automatically classed as missing.
Another factor is the increase in the number of children abducted by one of their parents and taken back to their country of origin.
While the figures for Almería make for bleak reading, the UK and other parts of the EU have seen a spike in the number of missing children, including the city of Bristol which saw the number double in 2017 compared to the previous year.
According to the charity ‘Missing Persons’, some 140,000 children in the UK go missing each year – this equates to 383 a day.
Common factors shared by the two countries are the high number of children who abscond from foster care and the significant percentage of migrant children who go missing or are abducted by a parent.