On the occasion of World Refugee Day, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland called on Europe’s governments to make protection of migrant and asylum-seeking minors against sexual abuse a top priority.
“Child protection is a moral duty and legal obligation for all European states. Last year, an estimated 300,000 migrant and asylum-seeking children have entered Europe alone, many of them unaccompanied. It is essential that national authorities take the necessary measures to provide safe, secure and suitable accommodation for these children, assign them appropriate legal guardians and protect from abuse.
“Refugee children are at grave risk of sexual exploitation and abuse, and face a very real danger of passing from the hands of smugglers to traffickers, compounding the trauma many have already endured.
“The true extent of the problem is difficult to know and may be worse than we fear. To provide support to our member States, we need to have a clearer picture of the situation. This is why we are launching an urgent monitoring of what our member States do to protect children affected by the refugee crisis from sexual exploitation and abuse.”
The monitoring will cover all 41 Council of Europe member states which are parties to the Convention on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (Lanzarote Convention). By 15 September 2016, these states will submit data on the number of migrant and asylum-seeking children residing on their territory who are known or believed to have become victims of sexual exploitation and abuse; measures taken to prevent children from falling victims of sexual abuse and exploitation; action taken to support victims and protect them from further abuse. The Lanzarote Committee is expected to publish its findings and recommendations to member States by the end of November.