When it comes to the global refugee crisis, there is no shortage of heartbreak. Refugees' plights are captured by news and media outlets—either in print or in pictures—and for a short moment, the world pays attention. And then people move on to the next viral video or trending topic. The human attention span is embarrassingly short and even one of the worst humanitarian crises of modern times is ignored.
Except maybe, when it comes to children.
Photos of terrified children who have managed to survive their journeys and pictures of those who were not so fortunate tend to hold people's attention. The general assumption, here, is that these kids are traveling with their families, or at the very least, an adult who can look after them. This, sadly, is not always the case. Thousands of kids are making the trek along the refugee migration routes alone.
An estimated 10,000 unaccompanied minor refugee children are missing in Europe. It’s believed that at least some of these kids have been taken safely under the wings of family members. But it’s difficult to determine which children have found safe harbor and which have not. Many fear the worst for those unaccounted children—that they have fallen into the hands of human traffickers and are being exploited for sex and slavery.
While it’s widely assumed that not all of the missing children will be criminally exploited, the mounting evidence is pointing in that direction. According Brian Donald, “An entire [criminal] infrastructure has developed over the past 18 months around exploiting the migrant flow.” To add to this alarming trend, Europol says that it is witnessing a crossover between the criminal gangs that smuggle refugees into the E.U. and human trafficking rings.
Unaccompanied children are among the most vulnerable of refugees. Among the short list of funders that can't bear the thought of children falling prey to criminal exploitation is the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).
SNF has joined the small group of NGOs supporting the European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM) by awarding the organization two emergency grants totaling €1.75 million. The funds will contribute to EPIM’s continuing efforts toward “the protection of young children who were forced to make the journey to a strange country alone, in search of a better future.”
For the most part, SNF shows a strong funding preference for projects that benefit its home country of Greece. Its contributions to the global refugee crisis tend are intended to "shape and lead the pan-European initiative in Greece."
SNF joins 12 other NGOs in its support of EPIM. Those among that group include organizations with strong human rights advocacy ties, such as the Open Society and Oak foundations.
As with any humanitarian catastrophe, the global refugee crisis is incredibly complex. And those complexities have only multiplied as the crisis drags on. This particular trend is among the most alarming and disturbing.
It's good that some funders are on the case. What's needed now is for those NGOs and funders who are combating modern slavery and human trafficking to jump on board here, and quickly.