The desperate reality of children trafficked into Portugal from mostly African countries has been exposed today in a report by the Council of Europe which shows that almost half the children rescued since 2012 have since gone missing.
The worst of this story is that Portuguese authorities themselves do not appear to be that concerned.
Talking to Público, Dora Estoura – coordinator at Lisbon’s CACR (safe house for child refugees) –
Explained: “We should not create alarmism”.
CACR is a ‘free space’, she said, and youngsters “frequently” leave without coming back. In 2015, for example, 29 (out of 66 in residence) left without any kind of explanation, in 2014 permanent absentees numbered 13 out of 38 ‘residents’, and in 2013 16 (out of 85) went missing without trace.
“There are issues that supercede us”, she added – citing the “desire” of the children “not to remain in Portugal”.
“It is possible that many want to go to other countries”, she told the paper, adding CACR “seeks to inform them of their rights and duties when they arrive”, stressing that “protection in Portugal is not valid in other countries, that there are risks”.
Disappearances are “communicated to the competent entities”, Público explains, but that is basically as far as it goes.
It is a state of affairs that GRETA (the Group of Experts on Against Human Trafficking) is not taking lightly.
Visiting Portugal last year, it heard that of the 226 people identified as victims of trafficking over the last four years, 36 of these were children – five of them less than 10 years old.
Of those 36, 15 appear to have gone missing.
The “majority” of children were brought into this country by sex trafficking networks. Most came from African countries (Nigeria, Angola, Guinea-Bissau), though three were identified as coming from Romania. Of the total, only five children were trafficked for non-sexual purposes: three for ‘work exploitation’ (modern-day slavery) and two for “criminal activities”.
GRETA’s 50-page report highlights the issues relating to ‘children’ (youngsters under the age of 18), suggesting authorities here have a long way to go still.
GRETA wants Portugal to “provide support for housing and education, and assure long-term monitoring” of these children, trying to find them foster families, for example, says Público.
The Council of Europe group has also expressed “serious concerns” that “Portugal has not adopted adequate measures to recover and reintegrate child victims of crimes”.