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Europe letting down child refugees – report

29 July 20160 comments

The European Union and its member countries are failing child refugees; abandoning them to live in squalid conditions at the mercy of people smugglers, according to a new British parliamentary report.

The UK’s House of Lords’ EU committee this week released a report saying Britain was refusing to take its fair share of child refugees, children were at risk of being preyed on by traffickers and European authorities were treating the issue as “somebody else’s problem”.

The report also said unaccompanied migrant children “face a culture of disbelief and suspicion”.

child refugees_thumbnail_bodyThe 115-page document said authorities in the UK and elsewhere in the EU avoided taking responsibility to help care and protect the 88,245 unaccompanied children that applied for asylum in EU states last year.

Poor reception conditions, prolonged uncertainties about their legal status and overall bad treatment has helped smugglers and human traffickers exploit thousands of children, the report said.

EU police agency Europol has estimated at least 10,000 unaccompanied minors and children seeking international protection have gone missing.

The report criticised the “lack of burden sharing” between local authorities in Britain and while the 32 London authorities have taken in 1,304 children, just 50 are cared for by the 16 authorities in the city’s south west.

“It is particularly shocking that so many unaccompanied child migrants are falling out of the system altogether and going missing. How can member states, including the UK, tolerate a situation where there are more than 10,000 missing migrant children in the EU?” said Baroness Usha Prashar, chair of the committee.

“We found that these children face suspicion on arrival. They are seen as ‘somebody else’s problem’ and the conditions they live in were described to us as deplorable and squalid,” she said.

“We found a clear failure among EU countries, including the UK, to shoulder their fair share of the burden. We deeply regret the UK’s reluctance to relocate migrant children to the UK, in particular those living in terrible conditions in the camps near the channel ports,” Baroness Prashar said.

The wide-ranging document also categorically dismisses the government’s argument that the prospect of family reunification could encourage families to send children to Europe unaccompanied in order to act as an “anchor” for other relatives.

Aid agency Human Rights Watch recently said Greek authorities were regularly detaining children in “unsanitary police station cells”. Some were as young as 14.

Missing Children Europe, an umbrella group for missing and sexually exploited children, also said that at least 50 per cent of all unaccompanied minors went missing within 48 hours of being placed in a reception centre.

Many absconded in the hope of reaching their intended destination in Europe. The vast majority of unaccompanied children were males under the age of 18 and more than half came from Afghanistan.

Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist