Last year, more than a million refugees crossed land and sea to escape persecution in Syria and parts of Africa and the Middle East, and to seek safe haven in European countries. Up to a quarter of that population was made up of young children, including 26,000 children who arrived without any family members. Now Europol, the European Union’s police intelligent unit, estimates that more than 10,000 refugee children are now unaccounted for and are considered missing. Although some of the children left the refugee camps and asylum centers to live with family members, thousands have disappeared after having registered with state authorities and are feared to have been exploited by criminal gangs and human traffickers. Officials say that there is a strong likelihood that numerous children have been taken to become sex workers and slaves. The refugee camps and reception centers have been overwhelmed by the influx of refugees, and many suffer from an insufficient number of translators to ease the language barrier for refugees. Children are an especially vulnerable population to the traffickers and criminal groups since the children are left to fend for themselves for long periods of time throughout the day and are unsure of who they are able to trust to help them. 5,000 children have disappeared from Italy’s asylum centers alone — and another 1,000 children who entered southern Sweden were reported as missing just one month after they arrived.

via CNN and BBC 

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