Unaccompanied migrant children are being radicalised and recruited by militant groups – at least 88,300 of them in Europe face the risk of being handed over to terror outfits by human smugglers so they can complete their journey, a new report by a counter-extremism body has claimed. According to the study published by Quilliam, outfits such as the Islamic State group and Boko Haram recruited refugees accommodated in camps by paying them money and funding the remainder of their children’s journeys.
A researcher for the organisation, Nikita Malik, said militants targeted children because of their lack of “mental and physical resilience” and drew them in by offering protection, food, money and transport through people smugglers. Also, girls become tied to the groups through marriage and sexual violence, the report said.
The United Nations children’s agency Unicef said children were often dependent on human smugglers under a “pay as you go system”, which made them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, including forced labour, beatings, rape and death. Unaccompanied migrant children in Europe do not have any laws to protect them from such threats, said a 2016 report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.
The Islamic State offers up to $1,000 to migrants headed to the Mediterranean coast and $2,000 to those in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon, according to the Quilliam report. Founder of Solidarity with Refugees Rosalind Ereira said Islamic State activities were funded by the money refugees paid human smugglers. “Where we fail to offer security to refugees, we leave the door open for radicalisation,” she said, according to Reuters.
In the past year, more than 1.4 million refugees from Africa and West Asia have sought asylum in Europe, forced to leave their countries because of conflicts and poverty. This is the largest such migration seen since World War II.