Data from the research network ‘Lost in Europe’ showed that between 2018 and 2020, more than 18,000 refugee children and young people disappeared from the state custody in Europe. They are at great risk of being exploited.
An exclusive data analysis showed that 18,292 underage refugees who are declared ‘unaccompanied minors’ disappear from state care across Europe and never reappear.
The number could be far greater due to the fact that countries like France, Denmark and Romania do not collect any statistical data at all. Countries like Bulgaria do not even have a distinguished difference between accompanied minors and young people travelling alone.
Despite the ever growing concern, the EU commission is aware of these deficits. It was mentioned by the EU interior commissioner responsible for refugees, Ylva Johansson, that the EU commission has already signalled to the member stated that they should do more to prevent the disappearance of refugee children.
Refugees at risk of exploitation
For African refugee children it comes with no doubt that most are forced into the sex trade to be sex slaves. They are trafficked soon after crossing into the country.
Afro news reported that anti–trafficking organisations said more women came forward seeking help in leaving their traffickers during the pandemic. Yet this came with huge potential psychological and physical repercussions.
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Countries participating in the report
Over the past year, only 10 of the 27 countries in the European Union have provided figures on minors who have disappeared on their asylum journey. Countries registering use different methods. In Belgium, information about disappearances is spreading in Vedasil, the Ministry of Justice, police services, prosecutors, and humanitarian institutions and organisations such as Child Focus.
In some cases minors are registered as adults, and in other cases the opposite is true. Some minors pass through different countries so it is possible that they have been counted more than once.