Number of runaway youths in Spain rises sharply in year 

by Lorraine Williamson
runaway youths

The ANAR hotline for missing children or runaway youths 116000 received 2892 requests for help in Spain in 2021 related to disappearances. Moreover, this led to the treatment of 1,172 cases.


These data are contained in a report published by ANAR. This was published on the International Day of Missing Children on Wednesday 25 May.

























According to ANAR, runaway youths account for the majority (66.5%) of the total number of cases treated. This is an increase of 52.7% compared to 2020 (779 cases in 2021 compared to 510). Most cases involved minors fleeing serious situations of violence. For example, physical or psychological abuse, sexual abuse, gender violence or harassment.  





Lack of boundaries 

Next in line are the minors placed out of home. Here there were 212 cases (18.1% of the total). Furthermore, that was 26.9% more than in the previous year, when ANAR dealt with 167 deportation cases.  

In many cases, the parents of these minors have problems setting boundaries and managing their children’s severe behavioural disorders. They do not know how to act. And, therefore, their desperation leads them to evict them from their homes, thus committing a serious crime,” said Benjamín Ballesteros, Director of Programmes at the ANAR Foundation.  

Substantially more abduction or kidnapping 

In third place, with 101 cases, are abductions or kidnappings by parents. This represents 8.6% of the total number of disappearances, which is 48.5% more than in 2020. According to ANAR, this occurs most frequently in mixed couples where one of the partners is a foreigner. Moreover, the problem is exacerbated when it occurs in countries that have not signed the Hague Convention.  

Criminal purposes 

Also noteworthy is the increase in cases of abduction for criminal purposes, the most serious cause of disappearance. ANAR recorded 18 cases in 2021. This represents an increase of 125% compared to 2020, when there were 8 known cases. The number of accidents or other types of disappearances increased by 28.9%, from 45 cases in 2020 to 58 in 2021.  

ANAR has intervened in four cases involving unaccompanied migrant minors. The foundation aims to use the 116000 phone number to reach these unaccompanied children and young people who may fall into the hands of cults, child prostitution networks or paedophilia.  

Cogesa Expats

At the same time, ANAR has acted in seven cross-border cases that required international coordination. In five cases, the entities running the service in other countries, notably Belgium, France and Portugal, required the Commission’s support. Meanwhile in the two other cases, ANAR requested the cooperation of Romania and the other countries with a 116000 number.  

Most requests in Madrid region 

The Autonomous Community that received the most requests for information on missing children was Madrid. Here, there were 822 requests for information and 318 cases, representing 28.4% of the total. This was followed by the Valencian Community (470 requests for information and 161 cases) and Andalucia (305 requests for information and 103 cases).  

Girls more often missing 

ANAR received more cases of missing girls (66%) than boys (33,5%). This was especially in the age group of 16 and 17 years (39,9%), followed by adolescents of 14 and 15 years (30,6%). In 79.4% of cases of running away, adolescents aged between 14 and 17 are involved.  

After care 

In 75.6% of cases, the ANAR foundation provided psychological, legal and social care simultaneously. Furthermore, 185 personalised follow-up interviews were carried out for the relatives of missing minors in 2021. “One of the worst things that can happen to people from a psychological point of view is the disappearance of one of their children. That is why we at ANAR are fighting to ensure that no new cases occur and demand that the families be given victim status,’ said the director of the legal department of the ANAR helplines, Sonsoles Bartolomé. 

Hotline exists since 2010 

On 15 September 2010, the 116000 hotline number was created, a free and confidential service which operates in several countries of the European Union. In Spain, this telephone line is managed by the ANAR Foundation, an institution that has been working with children and young people for more than 40 years. The organisation cooperates with 5 Spanish ministries, the autonomous communities, the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, as well as with various local authorities. Like the other ANAR helplines (ANAR helpline for children and young people at risk 900202010 and, it is available 24 hours a day, free of charge and guarantees confidentiality.  

Adults can contact ANAR 

The 116000 hotline is for both minors and adults involved in the disappearance of a child or young person, regardless of the cause of the disappearance. It offers help in reporting and immediate connection with the state security services and regional police; psychological and emotional support; legal and social counselling; and support and cooperation in police investigations. 

Also read: Over 5,400 missing people in Spain

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