“Neither safe nor sound”: Sexual exploitation, trafficking and abuse engulfing the lives of children in the camps of Calais and Dunkirk

“Neither safe nor sound”: Sexual exploitation, trafficking and abuse engulfing the lives of children in the camps of Calais and Dunkirk
LONDON/PARIS, 16 June 2016 – Children experience sexual exploitation, violence and forced labour on a daily basis in the camps of Northern France, according to the findings of Neither Safe Nor Sound, a new UNICEF France and UNICEF UK study.

The study looked at 60 children between the ages of 11-17 – from Afghanistan, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, and Vietnam – living in seven camps along the coast of the English Channel between January and April 2016.

The children’s testimonies paint a picture of abuse and tragedy, with cases of debt slavery and forced criminal activity, such as assisting smugglers at ferry terminals.

Sexual violence is a constant threat, including the sexual exploitation and rape of boys, and rape and forced prostitution of girls.

Interviews with young women identified practices of exchanging sexual services for the promise of passage to the UK or to speed up their journey.

Many of these children have fled conflict and are now trapped in the camps, some desperately close to reaching family already living in the UK where a bed is waiting for them.

In most of the camps an “entry fee” is levied by the traffickers before the minors are allowed to stay there. The unaccompanied children who are unable to pay find themselves forced to agree to perform laborious tasks for the adults, such as selling food at the informal night-time market which operates in the so-called Calais Jungle.

Complaints of cold and fatigue are commonplace due to the dismal living conditions, with children constantly exposed to the elements.

There is no access to regular schooling despite the fact that this is a mandatory provision.

Some children have expressed their desire to be hospitalised in a psychiatric ward following instances of mental breakdowns and aggressive and violent episodes.

Traffickers are now charging between £4,000 and £5,500 (US$5,600-$7,000) per person to cross the English Channel – a higher price than ever before. And because of the increased security presence this situation has pushed children into the hands of those traffickers, or forced them to take even more significant risks in order to pass through without paying – in some cases by hiding themselves in refrigerated lorries….

The report estimates that, as at March 2016, there were 500 unaccompanied children living across the seven sites, including Calais and Dunkirk, and that around 2,000 unaccompanied children have passed through them since June 2015…