Much public attention and heartache have been focused on the severe impact of the refugee and migration crisis on children. Images of toddlers drowned and washed up ashore, babies rescued from terrifying journeys, teenagers camping in bitter cold have been widely disseminated. An equally grave set of human rights problems however has not received adequate attention – the exposure of displaced children to violence and abuse, including sexual exploitation.
A new report by the Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights focuses on the situation facing refugee and migrant children in Greece, a key site of distress migration. The ‘Emergency Within an Emergency‘ report documents an alarming pattern of exploitation and abuse, including physical violence and sexual abuse. It examines the complex factors that expose children as young as 11 to regular sexual exploitation in central Athens, and it investigates the circumstances in Greek camps that contribute to regular patterns of violence and abuse. A key finding is that children rely on selling sex to raise money for their survival or to pay smugglers to facilitate their onward journeys.
Jacqueline Bhabha, Director of Research and Vasileia Digidiki, Research Fellow at the FXB Center, the authors of this report, note: “The absence of an effective child protection system presents enormous hazards for migrant children, exposing some to serious risks of long term exposure to sexual exploitation.”
The report contains painful testimonies of shame, despair and depression by brave and striving children, poorly served by an inadequate institutional response to their circumstances. The report concludes with detailed recommendations about urgent reforms required to address protection gaps, coordination failures and more general humanitarian responses to one of the most serious emergencies of our time. As the political climate in Europe and other parts of the world deteriorates for refugee and migrant populations, national and international stakeholders must come together to ensure adequate prevention measures and safe, legal paths to migration for migrant children in acute need of protection.You might be interested in other: Publications
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