Refugees are housed in camps in Greece to give them protection, but a four-year-old girl was raped there. She's unfortunately part of the growing epidemic of sexual exploitation and abuse in the country which houses 62,000 asylum seekers left stranded by the EU-Turkey and border closures across Europe.
A psychologist at the camp said that the mother of the four-year-old victim did everything to report the crime against her child. But aid workers and officials say victims more often have really nowhere to turn to, leaving victims trapped with their abusers. Many are afraid to go to police and authorities, who always lack interpreters and specialists.
Aid workers also shared that criminal gangs are thriving in squalid camps, terrorizing victims into silence. Some of the refugees have been staying in such camps for over a year already. Weak or non-existent structures leave vulnerable children at higher risk. There are reports of sexual assault rising while gangs blackmail minors and threaten to send humiliating photos to their victims' families.
One man is said to have offered a seven-year-old girl to play games on his phone, only to zip up the tent and victimize the little girl. The girl came back with marks on her arms and neck, and described how she was sexually abused.
Rape and sexual assault cases in such camps are still greatly under-reported because victims fear retribution from the abusers, and stigma within the community. Administrative backlogs can also cause long delays as before victims can be moved away from their abusers.
Thousands of children are among the 13,000 migrants in overcrowded island camps left stranded by the EU-Turkey deal. It is becoming known also that smugglers in Greece, Italy and the other parts of Europe are forcing refugees including children into prostitution to pay debts. Migrants are also said to be resorting to "survival sex" for food and shelter, or to have money to leave Greece. An increasing number of asylum seekers are now coming forward to share this sad reality.
It was also revealed that children desperate to have some money or find shelter resort to selling themselves, too, especially in notorious parts of Athens where they await to be approached by pedophiles. The Harvard study found that those who buy migrant child sex were mainly men over 35. Children engaging in survival sex are mainly teenage boys, most from Afghanistan.
Elderly men would offer food and shelter to children, while children prefer money in exchange for sexual services, done in the men's houses or in hotels. Some exploiters insist on doing it in notorious parks. Children are said to be paid less than $25 per exchange. Teen age boys revealed they are forced to engage in the sex trade in the desperate hopes of raising money to leave Greece.
For the first 10 months of 2016, 10,400 children applied for asylum in Greece mostly from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and other Middle Eastern and North African nations, creating huge backlogs in an unprepared system. By the end of 2016, only 2,413 migrant children or 11% has been successfully relocated to other European countries despite the previous commitment of 160,000 slots being made available.
Child protection are thoroughly legislated in Greece but laws are being inconsistently applied by overwhelmed authorities. The Harvard report identified six major risk factors needing to be addressed immediately including the lack of children's facilities, risky living conditions inside camps, unsupervised mixing of migrant adults with children, under-resourced child protection systems, a lack of coordination among authorities, and radically inadequate relocation scheme.