[WATCH] Malta to launch child abduction alert system

Malta to use alert system for missing and abducted children from next year

Home affairs minister Carmelo Abela (centre) announced that Malta will be using the ALERT system as from next year
Home affairs minister Carmelo Abela (centre) announced that Malta will be using the ALERT system as from next year

A new system used to alert the public about missing or abducted children will come into effect in the first half of next year, home affairs minister Carmelo Abela announced today.

The AMBER Alert System – a child abduction alert system which originated in the United States in 1996 before it expanded to Europe – will allow police to immediately notify the public of an abducted or missing child whose life is in danger.

The system enables countries to quickly involve the public in the search for missing children using an array of available media such as television, radio, variable-message road signs, public transport, text messages, email, website banners, advertising screens, PC screensavers, smartphone apps, and social media.

Alerts usually include details of the missing child and the likely abductor.

“Ensuring children's well-being and protection from harm have always formed an intrinsic part of the Maltese people’s core values.”

“The Issue of abducted or missing children has always been given utmost priority by our Police Force, and during its Presidency of the Council of the EU Malta will be working hard to see further developments on a European level in this field,” home affairs minister Carmelo Abela said.

Local police have teamed up with international NGO AMBER Alert Europe to set up the system and network it with that of other EU member states in an effort to improve cross-border police cooperation and public awareness, the ministry said.

Malta will join The Netherlands, Slovakia and Luxembourg in using the AMBER Alert System. A further 13 countries have their own child alert system in place.

The minister said Malta is also actively considering other types of cooperation on a European level in this field.

As things stand, the search for an endangered missing child often stagnates at the EU’s internal borders, he said. Abela also commended Maltese MEPs Miriam Dalli and Roberta Metsola for being on the forefront of a group of MEPs calling for improved cross-border cooperation in saving missing children’s lives.

Around 250,000 children are reported missing in the EU each year. In 76% of cases in which a child is abducted and killed, the child is murdered within three hours of the abduction.

Minister Abela was speaking during a courtesy visit by the President of AMBER Alert Europe, Frank Hoen, and the Coordinator of the Police Expert Network for AMBER Alert Europe, Charlie Hedges. They were in Malta to hold discussions and exchange best practice with the Police.

Also present for the meeting were Supt Dennis Theuma, Head of the Police Vice Squad; Supt Kenneth Haber, Officer In Charge of the Police’s Community and Media Relations Unit; Anthony Vella-Gregory, the Ministry’s Chief of Staff; Alessandro Mangion, the Ministry’s International Affairs Political Coordinator; and Josianne Sammut, Ministry Coordinator.