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UNICEF and IOM publish report on children and youth on the move at risk of trafficking and exploitation

13 September 2017  

In September 2017, UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have published the report
'Harrowing Journeys: Children and youth on the move across the Mediterranean Sea, at risk of trafficking and exploitation'.
The report is based upon interviews with 22,000 migrants and refugees, including 11,000 children (aged 14-17) and youth (aged 18-24), who have made the journey to Europe via the Central and Eastern Mediterranean routes in 2016 and 2017.  

The report demonstrates that even though all migrants and refugees face great risks during their journey, children and youth under the age of 25 are much more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. When traveling through Turkey or Greece, children and youth under the age of 25 experience almost twice as many cases of abuse and exploitation compared to individuals aged 25 or more. With regard to the Central Mediterranean route, 78 percent of the children and 77 percent of the youth have reported abuse, exploitation and/or trafficking, compared to 69 percent of the individuals aged 25 or more.  

On both routes, traveling alone is a factor for the risk of exploitation and trafficking. Separated children and youth are more vulnerable than those who travel together with their family. Furthermore, there exists a link between the level of education and the risk of exploitation. Children and youth with additional years of education are at lower risk of exploitation and trafficking.  

Jantine Walst, coordinator of the Separated Children in Europe Programme: "Every day members of our network are confronted with these gross children's rights violations. Separated children do not only face horrific things during their journey but also become victims of rape and exploitation in countries like Greece and Italy. Europe needs to step up and protect these children."  

The decisive element for the risk for children and youth to be subjected to abuse, exploitation and/or trafficking is their origin. The report shows that in particular children and youth from Sub Saharan Africa face a high risk. With regard to the Eastern Mediterranean route, 65 percent of the children and youth from Sub Saharan Africa are subjected to exploitation and trafficking, compared to 15 percent of the children and youth from other parts of the world. Reports and qualitative research suggest that racism underlies this difference.  

The Separated Children in Europe Programme supports the recommendations of UNICEF and IOM: 

- The voices of migrant and refugee children and youth should be heard
- More regular and safe migration channels should be created
- Parties should work together across borders to protect children and youth,
  and should fight against trafficking and exploitation
- Services should be strengthened in order to protect the rights of the migrant and refugee children
- The migrant and refugee children and youth should have access to education and other basic services
- The detention of refugee and migrant children should end
- Working children and youth should be protected from exploitation
- Parties should fight against racism, xenophobia and discrimination
- More evidence should be gathered on children and youth on the move  


Separated Children in Europe Programme (SCEP) - coordinated by Defence for Children The Netherlands - PO BOX 11103 - 2301 EC - Leiden - 0031 (0)71 516 09 80 - info@scepnetwork.org