On the move in Europe

In finding refuge, migrants often hide away in cargo trucks to travel across Europe, among them are minors that are unaccompanied or separated children (UASC).

Children on the move are uprooted from their communities, sometimes separated from their families, and a lack of access to adequate shelter, clear information, protection mechanisms and stability increase their vulnerability. Many “disappear” from the official European migration management system, and we fear that many of them become victims of trafficking and exploitation. The publications by Lost in Europe demonstrate that this is often the case.

Defence for Children-ECPAT Netherlands believes that the complexity and cross-border nature of the issue create the need for EU action in support of national and local action. Lack of precise and comprehensive is one of the challenges to protection and prevention almost universally included in NGO, government and EU reports. That is why Defence for Children-ECPAT Netherlands sees investigative journalism as such an important tool for their advocacy as it gives them dazzling evidence that politicians cannot turn a blind eye to.

On the move / trafficking

Children on the move going missing; and there are clear links to trafficking and exploitation. Over 30,000 migrant and refugee children are estimated to have gone missing after their arrival in Europe [2014-2017]. The majority disappeared before having filed an asylum application or during the asylum procedure.” One often states that the disappearances are linked to the fact that the children have not reached their desired final destination country, or in fear of a negative decision, and the fear of deportation after a final negative asylum decision.

Children on the move face challenges, but separated children face a double vulnerability: both as migrants and (potential) victims. Europol has confirmed that unaccompanied minors are at a higher risk of trafficking and exploitation.

States must identify these particularly vulnerable groups, e.g. victims of trafficking, traumatized children or children with special health concerns, and quickly provide effective support. These separated (unaccompanied), and vulnerable children are entitled to special protection and assistance.

But even when inside the government’s protection systems, children remain vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking as the Lost in Europe collective revealed.

As States are obliged to cooperate to ensure children’s rights and children are entitled to protection from violence and exploitation, Defence for Children and the ECPAT network can support these children by calling upon governments and politicians to protect them from these severe child and human rights violations.

Photo: © Geesje van Haren.