More than 10,000 unaccompanied migrant children have disappeared in Europe over the past 18 to 24 months, according to the police coordination agency Europol last Sunday. This agency expressed its concerns over the fact many of them may be exploited, including sexually, by organized crime. The organization, based in The Hague, is worried about the development of a Pan-European “criminal infrastructure” to profit from the migration crisis in Europe.
This information was relayed by an official of Europol in an interview with the British weekly “The Observer.”
Involved children are those who became lost without a trance after their registration with European authorities, said a Europol official, Brian Donald. He estimates that about 5,000 of them have disappeared in Italy – one of the gateways to Europe for migrants from the Mediterranean.
“It is not unreasonable to assume that we are talking about a total of more than 10,000 children,” said Donald. “But not all will be exploited for criminal purposes, there are some who have joined their family members. It’s just that we do not know where they are, what they do and with who.”
The Europol spokesman told the press that the figure was notably estimated based on the information supplied by European countries or made publicly available, such as via the Internet. These disappearances have been going on the past 18 to 24 months.
About one million migrants, mainly Syrians, Iraqis and Eritreans fleeing their country, entered Europe in 2015, according to Europol. Among these, 27 percent are minors. Some of them could be accompanied, others may not be.
The Europol spokesman argues that a sophisticated Pan-European “criminal infrastructure” now may target various migrants for different purposes.
“There are in Germany and Hungary prisons in which the vast majority of inmates are there because of criminal activities related to migration crisis,” Donald said.
Criminal groups involved in human trafficking are also nowadays active in illegal immigration networks to exploit migrants, Europol said, referring to slavery or sex trade activities.