Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Europe
"Across Europe, child protection systems are failing children on the move. [There is an assumption that everything is under control when they arrive in Europe, but it's actually just the beginning of a new phase of their journey."
"In parts of Germany, some of the centers for families are not suitable for children. They fall victim to violence and abuse and the staff lacks proper training."
"We are working to harmonize the standards."
Sarah Crowe, spokesperson, UNICEF, Geneva
"When Denmark nationally hosts 20,000 asylum seekers there will be fires, fights, rape and crime, because that would also be the case among 20,000 Danes."In Langelan, Denmark, young asylum seekers first arrived in 2014, a handful of African boys. Danish authorities authorized the establishment on the Danish island of centers for refugee children. Local organizers responded by opening up to twenty shelters where eventually over 3,200 refugees were given shelter. The community of Langelan served a double purpose for themselves as the shelters attracted government subsidies in the millions, while their humanitarian openness provided a new future potential for asylum-seeking youngsters.
Ulrik Pihl, former chief, asylum program, Langeland centers
Unfortunately, Langeland's shelter network has proven to be riven with problems and abuses such as arson, conflicts, rape and other instances of sexual molestation. The scandals which inevitably ensued, questioned the rapid expansion of a generalized welcome mat. What has occurred in Denmark is reflected across Europe, with countries poorly prepared to respond to the surge of migrants and now attempting to cope with burgeoning crime statistics and the sensitive area of unaccompanied minors.
Several months ago, UNICEF issued a report that 22,775 accompanied minors had made their arrival in Europe from Africa during 2016, doubling the number that had arrived the year before. The unusually high number of those children and the need to accommodate them has defied the best intentions of receiving countries. In a word, with the responsibility inherent in responding to the needs of these tens of thousands of young people, the challenge has proven beyond difficult.
Swedish asylum center operators came under scrutiny by Humans Rights Watch, as did French and British authorities who were criticized for the level and extent of the care they proffered to unaccompanied children at the migrant camp known as the Jungle, in the port of Calais. The needs of young people leaving conflict zones in Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea can only be adequately met when skilled staff are aware of their roles and exercise them with proficiency.
On Langeland island, in the village of Tulleboelle, two employees have been charged with sexual intercourse with minors in their care, along with being involved in other sex acts with seven young refugees, vulnerable in a new environment in a strange country at ages 16 to 18. At yet another center in the town of Praestekaergaard under the aegis of the Langeland municipality, up to a dozen refugee children were sexually molested by other child refugees.
Add those headaches to those induced by older male refugees and asylum seekers turning to crime, mocking authorities, challenging local police and involving themselves in sexual predation, becoming a threat to law and order, while government authorities try to tamp down the citizen outrage that invariably follows, and it is more than clear that Europe's generosity has been challenged by the mass influx of refugees and asylum seekers, beyond its capacity to absorb their needs and fend off the proclivity to crime among many.