A new report focusing on the protection of children affected by the refugee crisis from sexual exploitation and abuse has been issued. Non-comprehensive data collection, inadequate reception conditions, problems with age verification and with identification of victims are among the key challenges identified in the report.
While there is no aggregated data available on the total number of children affected by the refugee crisis in Europe, the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) assesses that in 2015 at least 337,000 children were registered as asylum seekers, 88,300 of which were unaccompanied. The states surveyed encountered many more difficulties in providing data or estimates on the number of children who did not seek asylum.
As for the number of victims of sexual abuse or exploitation, only very few (*) out of 41 countries surveyed provided figures, while others said there were either no victims or they had no data to substantiate this. Most Parties acknowledged, however, that they are aware that there are more cases of sexual abuse than official numbers suggest. This situation can be attributed both to the lack of capacity on the part of authorities, and to the non-reporting of the violence on the part of children themselves.
“Underreporting of sexual abuse and exploitation of refugee children and identification of victims is a major challenge,” said the Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland. “We realise the strain the refugee crisis has put on the member states’ authorities. However, we encourage governments to work with NGOs and set up effective data collection and child-friendly counseling services which will lead to better reporting of crimes and identification of victims”, he said.