European governments are losing track of significant numbers of children who have entered the continent without their parents as refugees from war-torn areas in the Middle East and beyond.
In Belgium, for example, authorities can’t account for 156 migrant children who entered the country unaccompanied since January 2015, and the number is growing.
The figures from Belgium and other parts of Europe show unaccompanied children slipping through the cracks in Europe’s social-safety net.
Lone children, according to officials and advocates, remain at the greatest risk of falling victim to labor and sexual exploitation. Some officials also worry young refugees, including those who have disappeared, could be targeted for recruiting by Islamic State and other extremist groups.
In 2015, 88,245 unaccompanied children—91% of them boys—sought asylum in the European Union, and officials estimate that there are as many as 10,000 missing migrant children. This year, 90% of migrant children arriving in Italy were unaccompanied.
[Wall Street Journal]