New statistics from UNICEF say that “only 17 per cent of the child refugees and migrants that arrived to Greece by sea in 2016 were accompanied by adult family members or guardians.”
“It has become worse. In 2016, the growth has continued. That gives us every reason to believe that that trend will continue in 2017,” warns Christoffersen to Dagbladet.
According to a 2016 report from the European Union Agency For Fundamental Rights (FRA), an unknown number of refugee children have arrived in Europe in the company of adults who are not their parents or guardians.
These so called “separated children” are at a high risk of exploitation and abuse. Some of them are believed to have already been exploited by the adults that are accompanying them.
Many of the adults that are accompany children into Europe are getting paid to smuggle the children into their destination country, and later abandoning them upon arrival.
Separated Children Are at Risk of Becoming Slaves
The report states that girls are at a high risk of become sex slaves or child brides, while boys are more likely to be exploited for manual labour.
“The risk of forced marriage has increased greatly,” explains Christoffersen to Dagbladet. Many of the children have no other caregiver than the person to which they are or will be married. They are socially isolated, do not speak the language and in practice, have few opportunities to get out of the marriage. Many end up as slaves in their own home,” he concludes.
A Failing System
There are no official records of who the missing children are, where they come from exactly, and how many there actually are, which contributes to the problem. European countries are not working together to protect refugee children in danger of exploitation.
“Current systems in place are failing to protect these children who find themselves alone in a totally unfamiliar environment. Because they are on the move, a coordinated European response is needed to keep them safe” said UNICEF Senior Emergency Manager Lucio Melandri.