LONDON (Sputnik) — In April, Harvard University published a report stating that child refugees in Greece were being subject to sexual exploitation by criminal groups. In addition to lax law enforcement, endemic poverty was said to have caused a rise in prostitution among the refugee population, something that has allegedly drawn the attention of trafficking gangs involved in the illegal sex trade.
"Being a child and attempting to travel through a nation that's foreign to you will obviously make you very vulnerable to trafficking. When you combine this with poverty and isolation then you're looking at a situation where children who were already in danger are falling victim to traffickers who simply take advantage of their situation," Jakub Sobik, a spokesman for Anti-Slavery International human rights organization, said.
By late 2016, fewer than 2,500 children refugees had been relocated to other European nations, which is less than 11 percent of the total population of child refugees in Greece.
"We sponsored an inquiry into this and found no evidence of anything like that taking place. On the contrary, what causes trafficking to proliferate is when you increase the vulnerability of people who are already at risk," Kate Roberts of the Human Trafficking Foundation UK said.
A subsequent freedom of information request in May revealed that the UK government had ignored around 1,600 offers from local councils to house child refugees.
Greece currently hosts over 60,000 refugees, over half of them being women and children. After having fled conflict zones in Afghanistan, Syria and Libya, many are currently stranded in closed reception centers following a 2016 EU-Turkey agreement to limit the flow of refugees into Europe.
Several thousand children refugees are believed to be unaccompanied by adults, which makes them especially susceptible to human traffickers infiltrating the camps. Drug smuggling and migrant-on-migrant violence are believed to be routine situations, further exposing vulnerable children to physical and psychological trauma.
Europe has been experiencing its worst migration crisis in recent history, with hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants fleeing hostilities in the Middle Eastern and North African countries. Greece, Italy and Spain are the countries especially burdened with refugee flow, as most of the migrants enter the European Union through their territory.