Child migrants at risk

Hundreds of children of refugees and illegal immigrants are falling victim to human-trafficking rings at the port of Patras as they await the opportunity to sneak onto a ferry to western Europe, aid organizations are saying. There are an estimated 250 children at a makeshift camp near the main port along with hundreds of adult migrants. According to aid groups, many of the children are subjected to physical abuse by traffickers and do not get the protection they are entitled to by law as minors. Police have conducted a series of raids on the camp but appear to have left the children alone. This has left them open to exploitation by human trafficking rings, aid groups say. «We are worried because there are many minors living near the port but they have not visited us to apply for asylum,» Christos Karapiperis, a Red Cross social worker, told Kathimerini. Red Cross officials say they have complained – to police and prosecutors – about traffickers but little action has so far been taken. The main problem is that the migrants – adults and children – believe all will go well if they manage to board a ferry. Regional authorities recently proposed the creation of a temporary holding center for migrants at the port. But municipal and prefectural authorities rebuffed the initiative, saying it would attract more migrants seeking free accommodation. Karapiperis dismissed this argument. «Migrants do not come here seeking better living conditions but to cross to the other side,» he said. «The real problem is the (trafficking) rings,» he added. According to Karapiperis, hundreds of children have been trafficked to western Europe. Some are returned to Greece by authorities in the destination countries but do not get protection to ensure they are not retrafficked, aid groups say. Recently a young Afghan, returned to Greece from Italy, started sleeping outside the Red Cross offices to avoid falling back into the traffickers’ hands.