Picture showing four people walking in a refugee camp.
  Young people inside a refugee camp in north-east Greece. Photo credit: Patrick Kingsley for the Guardian on the Guardian's website

Child refugees in Europe ‘forced to sell bodies’ to pay smugglers

Article in The Guardian
19 April, 2017

Unaccompanied child refugees in Greece desperate to reach the UK and other parts of northern Europe are being forced to sell their bodies in order to pay smugglers to help them with their journeys, according to a new report from Harvard University.

The Report from Dr Vasileia Digidiki and Prof Jacqueline Bhabha at the university’s centre for health and human rights, reveals what they describe as a “growing epidemic of sexual exploitation and abuse of migrant children in Greece”.

The report says child refugees from conflict zones including Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan trying to make their way across Europe are being stranded in Greece, unable to afford the fees charged by smugglers to move them.

Can we call such sexual exploitation an “unintended” consequence of EU border policies, when the European authorities know very well that more repression of irregular migration means more underground activities? Punishing migrants is actually empowering smuggling rings, unethical recruiters and exploitative employers. Through their policies, European States are effectively subsidising criminal networks. The current inefficiency of the Dublin relocation mechanisms and of national guardianship systems for separated children contribute to the tragedy.

Some cynics would say that making the life of asylum seekers as miserable as possible is part of the policy and practice arsenal to deter migration to Europe. Mitt Romney once called this kind of thinking a strategy to induce “self-deportation”. Not that it ever really worked that way. Others could say, even more cynically, that politicians know very well that such policies have no real effect on irregular migration numbers and movements. Their only objective is electoral at local level: anything goes, as long as one projects an image of “being tough on crime”.

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