Refugee and Migrant Children Are Vanishing Throughout Europe

The German government has confirmed what many human rights groups had feared: that over 6,000 refugee children have gone missing over the past year. A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry added that the number of children missing is almost certainly higher than the current estimate.

Although it is likely that some of the children have been taken in by extended families in Germany and around Europe, there are massive fears that many of these children will end up in black market trades. From forced sexual slavery to forced labor and organ markets, refugee children make for all too easy victims in such criminal gangs.

And these syndicates have flourished in the wake of the migrant influx. It is estimated that in 2015, human trafficking and criminal gangs made up to $6 billion dollars in profits. Rob Wainwright, the head of Europol told The Independent that, “Last year has been seismic in the development of the people-smuggling trade in Europe in particular, and we are now talking about its being a multibillion-dollar industry in the way it hasn’t before, and the Champion’s League of criminal sectors in Europe alongside drugs.”

Women from Africa have been particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation during migration. According to one report by Al Jazeera, “IOM said last week that 4,371 women and girls from Nigeria have reached Italy since January. Most of them — about 80 percent, according to IOM — were trafficked and became victims of sexual violence.”

The issue of disappearing children hasn’t stopped at the German border. According to Europol, by conservative estimates 10,000 children are currently missing throughout the continent. It’s estimated that 26,000 children traveled to Europe alone last year.

The European Commission has put out directives on unaccompanied children – and how they should be processed and taken care of when they arrive in Europe. However, too often these children can slip through the cracks. And without family, shared language or the understanding of how society works, they are easy prey for pedophiles and traffickers.

There have been some proposals to try to mitigate this issue. For instance in the UK Save the Children lobbied the government to take in 3,000 orphaned children, who could not be reunified with family members. However the UK’s plan refused to meet that goal, saying they would not put a “number’ on those they were taking.

The UK has also come under fire for cutting programs for underage refugees and denying them basic access. The Children’s Society, a UK charity has pointed out that, “The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has consistently criticised the UK for its treatment of certain groups of children, including migrant, asylumseeking and refugee children, who continue to experience discrimination and social stigmatisation.”

joint report by UNICEF and the Children’s Society showed that appointing guardians for unaccompanied children is a cost effective and safe way to ensure that children are able to understand their rights and their next steps, such as how to enroll in school and carry on in their new homes. Guardians are also better able to protect children from human traffickers and those who would seek to exploit their current vulnerabilities.

It’s unlikely that so many children would be able to simply vanish from society if they had guardians appointed to them. However, with sympathy for migrants and refugees waning all over Europe, it shouldn’t come as that big of a surprise that funding for guardians is scant, and that as usual, children have become the first victims of this apathy.

Photo Credit: Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia

118 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y7 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y7 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J7 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J7 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Peggy B
Peggy B8 months ago

Noted

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Glennis W
Glennis W8 months ago

They all must be cared for forever Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W8 months ago

Very horrible and sickening Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W8 months ago

Very sad and frightening Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W8 months ago

They must all be cared for Thank you for caring and sharing

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R8 months ago

Thanks for posting.

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