Disappearing Children Trigger Fears of Modern-day Slavery in Italy, Report Says

Unaccompanied refugee children being intercepted 'by networks of traffickers,' according to The Guardian.

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A migrant holding a child before disembarking a coast guard ship at the Sicilian harbor of Augusta August 26, 2014.Credit: Reuters

Disappearing refugee children are triggering fears of modern day slavery in Italy, according to a report that appeared Friday in Britain's The Guardian.

Over 3,100 of some nearly 12,200 unaccompanied minors who arrived from north Africa this year have vanished from foster homes and government shelters, according to an Italian Labor Ministry report.

Each month, dozens if not hundreds of children, mostly from Egypt, Eritrea and Somalia, are reaching the shores of Italy, The Guardian reported.

A Sicilian NGO described how Eritrean children are being abducted and trafficked.

“Most of the Eritrean children refuse to be identified by the authorities on arrival in the country because the Dublin Convention doesn’t allow them to claim asylum in other countries if they have been registered in Italy,” says Elvira Iovino, director of Centro Astalli, a migrants' shelter in Catania.

“While they are sleeping at the train station they are intercepted by networks of traffickers who promise to give them shelter and get them jobs. But then they are locked up in houses and, if the family can’t pay for them to be released, they have to work for them selling drugs, through prostitution or working in the Sicilian agriculture. These are all high-income activities for these networks.”

Local assistance groups talked in the report about being overwhelmed by the numbers of refugees arriving, which in turn leave countless youths vulnerable to exploitation.