Miguel Gonçalves, the chief inspector at the PJ’s Criminal Investigation Unit, announced the available statistics reflect national communications made directly to the Judiciary or that have been disseminated by other criminal police bodies (PSP and GNR), who stressed that registering a missing person is different from opening an investigation, which only takes place if there is “a suspicion of a situation of criminal origin”.

“As a rule, the vast majority of the situations we have are just situations in which a missing person’s report is made and in a short period of time the children (up to the age of 18) are located”, said Miguel Gonçalves.

“As far as I’m aware, we don’t have any specific situation in 2023 of a child who hasn’t actually been located and who has subsequently given rise to an inquiry”, he assured.

In accordance with the figures, of the 1,010 children who went missing in 2023, 179 were under the age of 14, while the remaining 831 were between the ages of 14 and 17, although the numbers may be somewhat inflated for different reasons.

“There are situations of duplication because there are many institutionalised children who go missing several times during the year”, the chief inspector explained, who also pointed out that among those under 14, it’s not always a case of an institutionalised child going missing, but rather of late arrival at the institution, adding that “they don’t follow the rules and if they don’t arrive, the institution automatically reports them missing”.

With regard to previous years, Miguel Gonçalves recalled that in 2022 there were a total of 1,102 records of missing children, 178 of them up to the age of 14 and 924 in the 14-17 age group.

In 2021, the lowest number of missing children and young people in the last three years was recorded, with a total of 976 (129 up to the age of 14 and 847 between the ages of 14 and 17), “most likely still influenced by the pandemic” of covid-19, the chief inspector described.

For the PJ official, the Portuguese reality “isn’t concerning” when compared to other countries, citing the examples of the United Kingdom or Spain, highlighting that situations involving children under 14 tend “to be resolved in the shortest possible time”, while for young people between 14 and 17, the situation can become “more complicated” due to their greater autonomy.

“The highest incidents of missing children occur between the ages of 15 and 16. As well as those who are very close to reaching adulthood, where in a few months they will turn 18”, he detailed.

On May 21, the PJ declared that it was joining the International Day of Missing Children campaign, promoted by the European Center for Missing Children in 16 countries, with the motto “Check. Think. Communicate”, providing a manual for parents and caretakers on what to do if a child goes missing. In accordance with the press release, around 300,000 children go missing in Europe every year.