10,000 Refugee Children Missing But Where Are They?

Over 10,000 refugee/migrant children have disappeared after being registered in Europe, some as young as 5 or 6yrs old. The procedures supposedly in place in Europe to protect children have truly failed.

Earlier this year Europol announced that over 10,000 unaccompanied refugee/children in Europe had gone missing within hours of being registered. The world has stood by and done nothing.

How could that many children just disappear?

Very easy apparently, and this is just the numbers of refugee children who have been registered and not including the children that were never registered entering countries in Europe by the use of smugglers etc. So many things could happen to these children including being kidnapped, trafficked and simply lost on their journey. I interviewed a refugee mother that had made it into Macedonia and was travelling through the woodlands of the valleys heading north towards Serbia and had lost her two little children. The children were never found by Macedonian police.

A statement from Brian Donald of Europol said “We just don’t know where they are, what they are doing or whom they are with”.

Back in January Europol made it public that there was an extremely disturbing problem of missing refugee children in Germany, and three months later confirmed that 5000 refugee children were unaccountable. Some sources state that the number of missing refugee children in Germany is actually closer to 9000.

The number of unaccompanied refugee children seeking asylum in 2015 tripled over the year of 2014. The number has risen to over 85,000 and the percentage of asylum seekers under the age of 17yrs is 31% according to Eurostat (dated 26th April).

Missing Children Europe adds some sobering details to that fact: “In 2015, the Swedish coastal town of Trellerborg reported that 1,000 out of the 1,900 who had arrived in the town had gone missing within the span of a month. The Italian Ministry of Welfare declared that 62 percent of the children that had arrived between January and May 2015 were unaccounted for.”

Refugee children have been systematically discriminated against, especially when unaccompanied. Many countries across Europe have a standard No Action Period for when a refugee child is reported missing, something that would be totally unacceptable if the missing child was European.

European Commissions coordinator for the rights of the child Margaret Tuite said “The implementation that, as always, is the challenge, we know the systems have been overwhelmed. I think there’s been some paralysis around responding, and I think it’s just a question of getting over it and getting on with it and making sure that we improve things for the future.”

Tuite’s office are now redirecting some of its funds to bridge the gap between child protection and helping children caught up in the refugee crisis.

Humanitarian workers are struggling on the ground with the mass of incoming refugees, this is further complicated by the fact that smugglers and even parents not to mention their ages, thinking that if they enter the legal system it will take years to be sent from a reception country to a country they want to get to, such as Germany. This helps push unaccompanied refugee children into the hands of traffickers where unimaginable exploitations are committed against these children.

With the EU-Turkey Agreement closing the door to Greece, many have started to use the Mediterranean as a route to Europe, in January 2016 24,000 refugees made it to Italy, of which 3300 were unaccompanied children.

The closing of borders has pushed refugees more and more into the hands of smugglers, and puts highly vulnerable refugee children at the mercy of traffickers. A better supported legal way of gaining asylum for children particularly is much needed.

Now Europol has highlighted this hugely disturbing news about refugee children, will something now be done? We can only live in hope.

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