The most vulnerable group of migrants and asylum seekers are undoubtedly children. However, their life-threatening journey does not end after they enter Europe. Many of them get separated from persons who are responsible for their protection during their perilous journey. They also fall prey to smugglers and traffickers. As a result, a record number of refugee and migrant children go missing in Europe every year.
Europol drew attention to the gravity of this situation when it declared that 10.000 migrant children were unaccounted in the European Union in 2016. Germany’s national investigative police agency, Bundeskriminalamt, reported on 1 July 2016 that authorities have lost trace of 8,991 children including 867 aged 13 or younger. Moreover, it is reported that up to 50% of unaccompanied migrant children go missing within 48 hours of being placed in certain reception centers in Europe. It is obvious that Europe is far from responding to this crisis in an adequate manner.
Council of Europe member States should do their utmost to reverse this alarming trend. Poor reception conditions, slow and complex procedures for protection and lack of co-ordination at national and cross-border level are underlying causes for this phenomena. Furthermore, finding themselves alone and in a strange place, the refugee children are easy preys to traffickers and smugglers.
The Parliamentary Assembly should examine in depth why refugee and migrant children in Europe go missing in such record numbers. The Assembly should investigate how current regulations could be improved to ensure that these children do not go missing. The Assembly should also critically analyse why most of the missing refugee and migrant children cannot be traced and found. Finally, the Assembly should highlight the good practices developed and encourage experience sharing between member States.