Child refugees are “particularly vulnerable” to exploitation by human traffickers, according to a report by The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Actions Against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA).
While most migrants – primarily refugees and asylum seekers – in 2015 were not exploited by their smugglers, many “frequently face barriers in accessing assistance, making them an easy prey for traffickers and exploiters in the countries where they seek asylum or in transit countries,” the report explained.
Unaccompanied minors and children separated from their families during their journey are particularly susceptible to trafficking.
They are also less likely to be identified as trafficking victims by current screening processes upon arrival in a new nation.
“In many countries, unaccompanied children disappear within a few days of being placed in reception centers,” the report stated. “The inadequacy of child protection measures and the lack of coordination at national level as well as between countries increase the risk of unaccompanied children falling victim to trafficking. In most countries, there is little or no information on the identification of trafficked persons among separated children.”
A key problem highlighted by the report is the fact that “law enforcement efforts to combat irregular migration are too often disconnected from the legal obligation to identify victims of trafficking in human beings, with negative consequences for the protection of such victims and the prosecution of traffickers.”
GRETA urged increased and refined protection measures to be implemented, including “effective access to asylum” for minors, appointing a guardian “to represent a child’s best interests” upon their arrival to a new country, and training programs to assist nongovernmental organizations, media, medical personnel, law enforcement, businesses and others in identifying trafficking victims.
The Council of Europe was founded in 1949 as an intergovernmental organization focused on human rights and democracy. It has 47 member states, including France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom, and six observer states, including Canada and the United States.
The full report is available here.