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Vanished child refugees: Portugal admits to “losing” up to 20%

With Europol revealing that up to 10,000 child refugees have vanished since arriving in Europe, Portugal’s own refugee council admits that here too we’re “losing” migrant children.

In fact, Teresa Tito Morais – President of the Conselho Português dos Refugiados (CPR) – says that “over the last few years” between 10% and 20% of minors who have entered Portugal as asylum seekers have since disappeared.

“We are aware that they come through trafficking networks that work in countries of reception,” she told Antena 1 radio.

Interviewed by Lusa, Morais added that Portugal has suddenly started receiving “a lot of requests for asylum from unaccompanied minors”.

She cited 50 requests in the week before Christmas, and another two in January.

Curiously, none of the requests involve minors from Syria. They came “predominantly” from Mali, Guinea-Conakri, Nigeria and Sri Lanka, said Morais.

Commenting specifically on Europol’s data, she agreed it was “very shocking” – but not really ‘news’ to anyone working in the field.

The “reality is that human trafficking is increasing ferociously by way of exploitation of refugees. Many times children are brought to Europe by networks and remain in their clutches due to threats that otherwise their families would suffer retaliations”.

“The message” this reality brings is that international policies for unaccompanied minors have to be more inclusive.

“They are young defenceless people who disappear by being put at the services of trafficking networks, but who have also lost their families, and do not know where they are,” added the president of CPR.

Europol’s director Brian Donald told the UK Observer newspaper that around half the 10,000 children that disappeared, had done so from Italy.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com