Refugee children in notorious French camps have been sexually exploited and forced to commit crimes by traffickers, who promise them passage to the UK, a UNICEF report says.
An excerpt from a research by the UN Children’s Fund indicates that young refugees in infamous refugee camps in the Northern French ports of Calais and Dunkirk suffer a disturbing range of abuses at the hands of traffickers.
The research is due to be published in full on Thursday.
Children mostly from Syria and Libya told researchers that human traffickers force them to work tirelessly and commit crimes such as opening lorry doors to enable adults to be smuggled across the Channel to Britain.
A 16-year old Syrian boy, who was stuck in France without his family for seven months, said “the worst part of my journey was being in Calais because most people there were subjected to violence and humiliation.”
“Every day people would try to find ways of leaving. My friends and I tried to get on a train to get away– I saw two friends die under that train,” he was quoted as saying.
The Calais camp is known as the “Jungle” due to the appalling living conditions of asylum seekers there.
Thousands of refugees are massed in the “Jungle,” some for months, as they try to cross the Channel to reach Britain.
Last month, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to speed up family reunification, but the government has said it could take up to seven months to receive the first children.
Citizens UK, a charity that works to resettle refugees, says only 150 children in Calais have the right to enter Britain because they have families in the country.
It estimates that at the current rate it would take a year for all 150 to be reunited with their families.