Migrant And Refugee Children Exposed To Beatings, Rape And Death In Their Perilous Journey To Europe

By Samantha Finch, Parent Herald June 15, 05:00 am

Migrant children seeking asylum in Europe are exposed to possible beatings, rape and death in their perilous journey. The United Nations Children's Fund, or UNICEF, said these children are also at risk of drowning in the Mediterranean Sea during their passage.

Migrants and refugees from Syria, Libya and the Sahel countries in Africa are composed primarily by minors, and majority of them are unaccompanied. Between Jan. 1 and June 4, more than 206,000 arrived by sea in Europe and 35 percent of them were children, UNICEF said in a recent report.

These people are fleeing their countries due to a number of reasons. They have faced brutal civil conflicts, violence, poverty, drought, forced early marriage and lack of prospects in their homelands. For them, heading to Europe will give them a better quality of life.

Sexual Exploitation And Abuse Prevalent

According to UNICEF, there was strong evidence that the most vulnerable refugees—women and children—are being targeted by criminal human trafficking groups for exploitation. UNICEF's report revealed that migrant boys and girls face sexual exploitation, pedophilia rings, gangs and prostitution while in Libya. By the time they arrive in Italy and other European countries, numerous young girls were already pregnant.

Refugee and migrant children also face "risk detention, rape, forced labor, beatings or death," UNICEF's report listed. Even those children who are housed in temporary detention centers aren't exempted from maltreatment.

Migrant Detentions Poorly Handled

Upon arriving in Europe, majority of the migrants and refugees are housed in sports halls, former military barracks or in police custody. These institutions do not provide the children with proper schooling, psychological support and recreational activities.

In Germany, migrants and refugees in shelters have faced xenophobia, hate speech and stigmatization. There have been 45 arson attacks in German facilities during the first half of 2016, Reuters reported.

UNICEF said crowded asylum and detention centers have caused many refugee children to slip through the cracks, with little official figures or data on them existing. This problem is exacerbated by illicit human smuggling operations, which have whisked the powerless children into labor and prostitution before they were properly recorded by authorities.

Prince Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, has urged authorities in Greece and Italy to come up with housing alternatives for migrant children while asylum requests are being processed. A child's request process for asylum can last up to two years in some countries. The process for reuniting families is just as slow.

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