Despite increased border restrictions introduced in 2016 on refugee and migrant movements to and within Europe, a recent UNHCR Report indicates that people continued to move. With restrictions and closures of legal, formerly accessible routes, more dangerous journeys were undertaken, with increased risks of trafficking. Especially vulnerable are women and children, in particular unaccompanied children and minors. Reports continue to be received about refugees and migrants kidnapped, physically and sexually abused, tortured or extorted by smugglers and criminal gangs along key routes.
The Report finds that the main entry point to Europe is the Central Mediterranean route, from North Africa to Italy. In total, some 181, 436 people arrived in Italy in 2016 by sea, 90% of whom travelled by boat from Libya. Of those arriving in Italy, Nigeria and Eritrea were the top two nationalities, being 21% and 11% respectively. The majority of new arrivals are people in need of international protection and are also victims of human trafficking and migrants seeking better quality of life.
A striking feature of the new arrivals is the increasing number of unaccompanied and separated children who have made the dangerous journeys, with more than 25,000 doing so in 2016. This is more than twice the number of unaccompanied and separated children than previous years. Unaccompanied and separated children represent 14% of all new arrivals in Italy.
Their perilous plight is not ended once they reach Europe. Deeply traumatised by the experiences during their journey towards Europe, separated from family, alone and without a European language in many cases, these children are extremely vulnerable to criminal gangs, traffickers and smugglers who await opportunities to take advantage of their obvious vulnerability.
RENATE is undertaking a Mapping exercise on Child Trafficking in a selected number of European countries with the assistance of its Members in those countries. It is intended that the findings of such an exercise, which will be largely informed by members at grassroots level, will assist in guiding RENATE’s work in early intervention and support, so as to prevent human trafficking and exploitation.
To access the fullUNHCR Rseport, please go to: http://www.unhcr.org/58b449f54
Prepared by Anne Kelleher, RENATE Communications Person.
Increasing numbers of unaccompanied and separated children is a striking feature of recent UNHCR Report ‘’Desperate Journeys.’’