Thousands of Refugee Children Disappear in Europe

Thousands of Refugee Children  Disappear in EuropeThousands of Refugee Children  Disappear in Europe

They cross deserts and brave oceans to escape war, only to disappear without a trace in Europe, including in Germany, a prime destination for refugees.

How can thousands of refugee children simply drop off the radar?

Authorities handling Europe’s refugee crisis have lost track of about 10,000 unaccompanied minors—a conservative estimate—according to the European Union’s Europol police agency.

One out of two disappeared once they had entered Italy, which is the first stop on European soil for many, Deutsche Welle reported.

Inconceivable, says Germany’s SOS Children’s Villages aid organization.

It’s a shameful state of affairs, the group’s press spokesman Louay Yassin told DW. “The entire refugee situation is shameful; it’s not a refugee crisis at all, but a European political crisis.”

According to Germany’s Federal Association for Unaccompanied Minor Refugees, the country saw 35,000 to 40,000 new unaccompanied minors in 2015, mainly from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Eritrea and Somalia.

Of those, an estimated 15% to 25% have disappeared. “The fact that the young people vanish—and they usually disappear within the first four weeks after arrival—has become normal, no one really asks after them,” says the association’s Nils Espenhorst.

The police will search for a vanished young refugee with the same intensity as “searching for a stolen bicycle,” he told DW.

In particular because youths traveling alone are so vulnerable, the figures are worrying, he says, adding that the number of unreported cases is presumably much higher.

There is little information on what happens to the children once they have vanished. They might just be continuing their journey to relatives or other contacts in northern Europe. No one knows whether they ever reach their destination.

There are, however, fears that organized crime rings are exploiting young refugees, forcing them into prostitution, begging, pornography or other criminal activities.