Europol, the pan-EU police force, has claimed 10,000 children are missing in elaborate smuggling networks in Europe. Brian Donald, Europol Chief of Staff, claimed in an interviewed with the Observer that “criminal infrastructure” was specifically targeting refugee children.

“It’s not unreasonable to say that we’re looking at 10,000-plus children,” Donald stated. “Not all of them will be criminally exploited; some might have been passed on to family members. We just don’t know where they are, what they’re doing or whom they are with.” It is estimated that over 5,000 of the missing children have disappeared in Italy with a further 1,000 in Sweden.

“Whether they are registered or not, we’re talking about 270,000 children. Not all of those are unaccompanied, but we also have evidence that a large proportion might be,” he said.

UK-based NGO Save the Children estimates that 26,000 unaccompanied children entered Europe in 2015.

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