Children as young as seven have been sexually assaulted in official European refugee camps, it has been reported.
Others are reportedly too afraid to leave their tents at night amid fears they could also be targeted, following a number of disturbing allegations about life in the camps.
One volunteer serving at the Softex camp in Greece told The Observer young girls are being groomed by male gangs. He said on one occasion an Iraqi family had been moved to emergency accommodation following a sexual assault on their 7-year-old daughter.
He said: “The parents are still in disbelief over what happened. A man from one of the ‘mafia’ groups asked their seven-year-old daughter into their tent to play games on his phone and then zipped up the tent.
“She came back with marks on her arms and neck. Later the girl described how she was sexually abused. It has scarred a seven-year-old child for life.”
The family are reportedly no longer wishing to stay in Europe, but seeking to return to Iraq following the attack.
Other charities and aid agencies say they have also heard reports of children and women being sexually assaulted at the camps, fuelling concerns they do not provide adequate protection for vulnerable refugees.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper said the allegations should “shame us all” and serve as a reminder of how much more the UK must do to support refugees. She told The Observer: “The UK government needs to urgently wake up to its responsibility. Parliament passed the amendment exactly because we were worried about child refugees being exploited, trafficked and sexually abused because other countries were overwhelmed with the scale of the problem.”
In May, it was alleged a cleaner at a Turkish refugee camp had raped up to 30 boys, as young as 8-years-old. It was alleged he raped the boys in camp toilets and paid them 35p. Many of their parents said they were too afraid to speak out. After multiple alleged attacks over the course of three months, he was later arrested by local authorities.
In September 2015, it was alleged that sexual violence was commonplace at a camp in Giessen, Germany, where 5,000 refugees and migrants were living. A letter penned by a whistle blower to the Minister of Integration and Social Affairs alleged: “It is a fact that women and children are unprotected. This situation is opportune to those men who already regard women as their inferior and treat unaccompanied women as ‘fair game’. As a consequence, there are reports of numerous rapes, sexual assaults and increasingly of forced prostitution. These are not isolated incidents.”
Reports have also emerged of men being forced into prostitution due to destitution. Men fleeing Syria and Afghanistan have been reportedly selling sex for as little as two euros in Athens’ red light district, after border rules changed and left many stranded with no possibility of earning an income.