10,000 young migrants unaccounted for, EU police...
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Feb 01, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

10,000 young migrants unaccounted for, EU police agency says

The EU’s criminal intelligence agency said new data shows at least 10,000 unaccompanied migrant children have vanished since arriving in Europe

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Some work in factories. Some are married off at puberty. Others — at least 10,000 children, according to new EU estimates — have simply disappeared, raising fears human trafficking syndicates now are cashing on refugee despair. The lone glimmer in the gloom: Malala Yousafzai’s new $2-billion campaign to put Syrian kids safely back in school.

10,000 vanish

What happens when the organized gangs who help smuggle refugees converge with the human traffickers who exploit vulnerable children for sex work and slavery? That’s the sickening question confronting Europe today as new data shows at least 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees have vanished since arriving on the continent.

The numbers alone don’t tell the whole story, according to Europol, the EU’s criminal intelligence agency, which says it has evidence known human trafficking syndicates have begun to target refugees for exploitation. “It’s not unreasonable to say that we’re looking at 10,000-plus children. Not all of them will be criminally exploited; some might have been passed on to family members. We just don’t know where they are, what they’re doing or whom they are with,” Europol chief of staff Brian Donald told the Observer.

Among the vanished are 5,000 unaccompanied child refugees who first registered in Italy and 1,000 others who sought asylum in Sweden.

Others in factories

Europol’s revelations on child refugees coincide with new disclosures about the plight of Syrian kids working in Turkey’s garment industry, cranking out brand-name clothing for the European market.

Two major U.K. retailers, H&M and Next, revealed Monday that they found Syrian children working in their supply chain in 2015 and swiftly terminated ties with the Turkish factories involved. The disclosures came in a new study of 28 Turkish-sourced clothing brands by the non-profit Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), which praised H&M and Next for taking swift action, and noted 10 major retailers, including GAP, New Look and River Island, have yet to respond to the survey.

“No brands want child labour in their supply chain. What matters is that H&M have been vigorous in seeking out the problem, and tackling it effectively in a way that supports the child,” said BHRRC spokesman Phil Bloomer. “We need other European clothing brands to show equal vigour in eliminating this curse.”

Geneva talks

Though expectations for a breakthrough are close to zero, the UN envoy for Syria declared peace negotiations officially underway Monday after his first formal meeting in Geneva with a team of opposition representatives.

Staffan de Mistura told reporters the “complicated and difficult” talks are intended to deliver “something concrete, apart from a long, painful negotiation.” Optimistic translation: a reprieve, hopefully, for several starving Syrian towns.

The Syrian government, in a separate announcement timed to coincide with the launch of talks, said it agreed “in principle” to allowing humanitarian aid to flow into three besieged towns, including Madaya.

The talks are meant to stretch in several stages over the next six months, with the first round ending Feb. 11. But in the absence of common ground between rebels and the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad, an increased flow of aid may be the best hope for now.

Malala’s multibillion dollar rescue

Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, meanwhile, is not waiting for peace — the Pakistani campaigner laid down a gauntlet, calling on world leaders to mobilize $2 billion for the education of Syrian children affected by the continuing civil war.

In an article for the Guardian co-written with Syrian refugee Muzoon Almellehan, Yousafzai said while the figure may sound expensive, “the cost of inaction is far higher.”

She stressed that a renewed emphasis on education will save what is fast becoming a lost generation. “I have met so many Syrian refugee children, they are still in my mind, I can’t forget them,” Yousafzai told Reuters, describing her experiences in the camps of Jordan and Lebanon. “We can still help them, we can still protect them. They are not lost yet. They need schools. They need books. They need teachers. This is the way we can protect the future of Syria.”

Her comments come ahead of the Supporting Syria summit, which takes place in London this week.

Toronto Star

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