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

  • As Defence Minister says: It will take years to find remaining Chibok girls
  • Boko Haram kills five soldiers in Borno

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.

As a result some of the children are turning to selling sex to try to fund their journeys.

Report author Digidiki said: “This emergency can no longer be ignored. We can no longer sit idle while migrant children are abused and forced to sell their bodies in broad daylight and plain sight in the heart of Athens simply to survive.

“It is our responsibility as human beings to face this emergency head on and take immediate action at every level to put an end to this most heinous violation of dignity and human rights.”

The report found that the average price of a sexual transaction with a child is €15 (£12.50). The largest group of children selling sex are Afghani boys along with Syrians, Iraqis and Iranians. The majority of customers are older men aged 35 and over.

Smugglers often charge thousands of euros to move people across Europe and so despite selling sex many children find that the fees charged by smugglers are still beyond their reach.

The Home Office has declined to comment on how many child refugees it has transferred recently under section 67 of the Immigration Act, known as the Dubs amendment, where a certain number of vulnerable unaccompanied refugee children will be transferred to the UK.

Charities working to support child refugees across Europe who want to seek sanctuary in Britain have criticised the government for closing the Dubs scheme in March after taking 350 children via the programme. Campaigners had hoped up to 3,000 children would benefit under the scheme.

It has also declined to comment on numbers of children transferred under Dublin III regulations – family reunion. Last year only five children are thought to have been transferred from Greece and Italy to the UK under Dublin regulations.

According to Greek child protection agencies in 2016, they received referrals for 5,174 unaccompanied migrant children. It is this group who are at the highest risk of sexual exploitation. But at the end of December 2016 only 191 of them had been transferred to other European countries. Almost 50% of unaccompanied children in Greece are awaiting relocation to specialised, child-friendly accommodation.

In the meantime, the federal government has said it will take years to find the remaining kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls.

On April 14, 2014, 276 girls were abducted from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok in Borno state.

While 57 of the girls managed to escape, three were found, and 21 released after the sect struck a deal with the government. A total of 195 are still missing.

Speaking with the Hausa service of VOA, the minister of defence, Mansur Dan Ali said the government would continue its search of the girls in the vast Sambisa forest.

“It took the U.S up to seven, eight, up to 10 years before they could get to Bin Laden. We are continuing our campaigning in the Sambisa forest in all its nooks and corners,” he said.

Osama Bin Laden was the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorists’ attacks in the United States.

Meanwhile,   the missing girls’ parents  have vowed they will  continue  to march on  the Presidential Villa, Abuja,  every day until they are granted audience by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The parents,  who were again refused access to the State House on Tuesday, claimed   they had become the president’s enemies after voting him into power.

The kidnapped girls’ parents led by Rev. Enoch Mark, whose two daughters are  among the missing ones, complained about  the Presidency’s approach  to the issue.

He said, “We are very sorry for giving Mr. President our votes. We voted Mr. President hoping he would rescue our daughters but we have become his enemies.

“Why can’t the president communicate with us, are we not Nigerians? Is that good for a president; a leader, to show such attitude. We believe the president is against the Chibok Community.”

Mark questioned the capability of the government to rescue the girls, claiming  that it was not involved in the rescue of the girls that were found.

“If our military are not capable of rescuing our children,  that means any country can come in, fight and defeat Nigeria. It is sad  that our president overlooked the military intelligence and told us he doesn’t know the whereabouts of our girls, it is very shameful,” he said.

President of the Chibok Community in Abuja, Hosea Tsambido,  said the parents would continue their protest.

The parents had protested to the State House on Friday and insisted on meeting with the President or his wife, Aisha, but they were persuaded to come back on Tuesday to see her.

Meanwhile,  suspected Boko Haram insurgents have attacked a military checkpoint in Sabon Garin Kimba village in Borno State, killing five soldiers.

It was learnt that the terrorists, who came out in their scores and believed to belong to the Abu Al-Barnawi faction, stormed the checkpoint, which is about 140 kilometres to Maiduguri, the state capital, in the late hours on Monday, killing the soldiers and injuring five others.

According to the Agence France-Presse, local residents in Sabon Garin Kimba and a military officer confirmed the deaths, noting that the jihadists’ raid on the military post was unexpected.

“Our men were outgunned and outnumbered,” the source, who asked not to be named because he was not authorised to speak about the incident, told AFP.

“We lost five men in the fight. Five more were injured,” he added.

A civilian, Mustapha Karimbe, who assisted the military, said the terrorists took away military vehicles and burned three armoured cars along the makeshift sheds at the checkpoint.

“The terrorists attacked the soldiers and remained in the village for about three hours before they withdrew,” he said.

The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.Gen. Sani Usman, could not be reached for comment as at press time.

Guardian with additional report from Citizen