How to improve the protection of migrant and refugee children at risk of abuse, traffic and exploitation?
The number of missing persons is the highest since the end of the Second World War. Nevertheless it is impossible to give an exact figure. But is this given the necessary importance? Is this problem acknowledged?
In this context, it is of crucial importance to focus on the refugee crisis and, more specifically, on one of the most serious dimensions of this tragedy: the minors. Interpol estimates that 1 in 9 refugee children are missing, but the number could be much higher. This figure is an attempt to quantify the number of disappeared children arriving without adult supervision. In addition, the lack of consensus on the definition of ” disappeared child ” and of a common response, leads to the fact that most of the statistics that exist in this regard are not precise. But what actions can be taken to prevent the disappearance of children after their arrival on the European continent and how to find the whereabouts of the disappeared?
Organisations such as UNICEF stress the importance of speeding up the decision-making process in relation to children, since currently children wait up to 11 months between registration and transfer to a country that may consider their application. This, together with the long duration of the process of family reunification and the lack of information, means that children end up trusting traffickers more than they trust the system, leading to situations of violence, abuse and exploitation. This further accentuates the problem of registration and coordination of the Member States.
It is essential to introduce legal means for the arrival of refugee children and good reception conditions to avoid exposure to criminal organisations. A more just and sustainable system in terms of asylum and migration is necessary to solve the problem. It must not be forgotten that many of the disappeared children and teenagers have escaped from terrible situations and see their suffering prolonged in Europe, thus highlighting the deficiencies in the mechanisms to combat human trafficking, as well as the lack of means for welcoming the most vulnerable refugees. Impatience, misinformation and frustration with legal channels push minors to seek routes outside the law.
The slow bureaucracy has been repeatedly denounced by UNHCR, which has urged European countries to increase the secure access routes to Europe for refugees, as well as to establish “a simplified asylum system that allows identifying, registering and process arrivals quickly and efficiently’’. Only in 2019, 11655 people arrived across the Mediterranean and 225 are estimated dead or missing.
The LOST project third transnational meeting will be held in Aarhus on the 8th and 9th April.