Over 100 missing minors from Calais could be subjected to sexual abuse – report
Out of 167 children that were trafficked from France to the UK since last August, 104 minors remain missing, the Independent reported, citing figures provided by the Refugee Youth Service (RYS), a Calais-based charity.
Months after the Calais ‘Jungle’ was bulldozed by French authorities in October 2016, refugees, including unaccompanied minors, are still arriving on the banks of the English Channel, hoping to reach the UK. In response, Britain has scrapped the Dubs Amendment, allowing for the resettlement of 3,000 unaccompanied minors.
RYS tracks the records of minors who are known to have reached the UK from France illegally. Once on British soil, the charity refers them to the NSPCC’s Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC), providing it with all the information needed to help locate them in the UK. CTAC then reports those cases to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – a process set up by the government to identify and support victims of trafficking in the UK.
In their report, the publication noted that the actual number of missing kids could be much higher, as many of the minors remain “hidden” from child protection agencies after being told by their traffickers not to engage with the authorities.
“This is the tip of the iceberg,” Michael McHugh, the RYS coordination and child protection officer, told the Independent. “There are children here who are trying not to be seen, manipulated by people who don’t want them to be seen by us, worried about the state interfering. The true numbers will be far higher.”
Charities that deal with child welfare warned that the missing minors could be subject to sexual and drug abuse as well as labor exploitation by the individuals who smuggle them across borders.
Getting a child from France to the UK can cost around £9,000 ($11,700), the report estimates, which most minors are unable to pay. To cover the cost, children practically serve as slaves to the criminal gangs engaged in illegal trafficking.
“Both in Calais and once they reach the UK, children and young people are falling victim to sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, criminal exploitation,” Christine Beddoe, an adviser on tackling child trafficking who co-authored the report, said.
“Very high prices are demanded and if they don’t have families who can pay, then those young people are expected to do something to pay back that money, and then that turns into an exploitation situation,” she added.
Beddoe pointed out that sexual exploitation is the biggest problem faced by young male refugees. Because of the nature of the abuse, young boys are reluctant to report the abuse to the authorities.
In response to the report, the UK Home Office has issued a statement, stressing that Britain is doing everything to make sure that the minors arrive to its shores safely.
“We have already strengthened regulations on children’s homes and placed a duty on local authorities to tell us about all incidents of young people going missing,” the statement to the Independent reads.
“However, we know trafficked and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children can be particularly vulnerable. Our focus will continue to be on transferring all eligible minors to the UK as soon as possible and ensuring they arrive safely,” it added.