A refugee carrying his children walks on a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey. Photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – At least 10,000 unaccompanied children who arrived in Europe over the past two years are missing and may have fallen victim to gangs forcing minors into sex work or slavery, the EU’s criminal intelligence agency warned.
Brian Donald, chief of staff of the European Police, Europol, told Britain’s Observer newspaper over the weekend that at least 5,000 underage refugees registered in Italy have gone missing, adding that another 1,000 disappeared in Sweden.
He expressed worry that the children might have fallen into the hands of organized trafficking and criminal groups across Europe.
"It's not unreasonable to say that we're looking at 10,000-plus children," Donald said.
"Not all of them will be criminally exploited; some might have been passed on to family members. We just don't know where they are, what they're doing or whom they are with,” he explained.
But Donald added there is evidence about the existence of a “criminal infrastructure" since 2014 to exploit arriving refugees for financial benefits.