3,000 Refugee Children Could Be Trafficked; Britain Urged to Help

A young girl from Kurdistan leaves her tent in a muddy field called the Grande-Synthe jungle, a camp of makeshift shelters where migrants and asylum seekers from Iraq, Kurdistan and Syria gather in Grande-Synthe, near Dunkerque, France, December 29, 2015. (REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol)

With thousands of refugee children at risk of being trafficked while traveling alone through Europe, the International Development Committee is urging Britain to take them in.

Resettling unaccompanied children should be on top of the current commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees, said the parliamentary committee, which monitors the performance of Britain's development aid ministry, on Tuesday.

"Children are clearly some of the most vulnerable refugees this crisis has created," Stephen Twigg, chair of the committee, said in a statement. "Having survived the treacherous journey, there is a grave possibility that unaccompanied children become the victims of people traffickers who force them into prostitution, child labor and the drugs trade. This is an issue of utmost urgency."

More than 1 million refugees and migrants, half of them Syrians fleeing the war, came to the European Union this year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In September, British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to take in up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years, responding to public clamor for his government to help those fleeing civil war in the country.

"...We are looking again at the issue of bringing Syrian children to the UK, both from the region and from within the EU," a government spokesperson said in a statement.

"In any consideration we must ensure that our proposals are in the best interests of those children affected and do not inadvertently put children at additional risk."

The committee said the government should come to a "quick decision" on the proposal initially made by charity Save the Children, which launched an online petition in September.

The committee also called on the British government to ensure that refugees from vulnerable groups such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), Christians and the disabled have access to the resettlement process.

It said the government should look into how to better use offers of support for Syrian refugees from local communities within Britain, among other recommendations.

Since 2011, millions of Syrians have been displaced by civil war, with more than 4 million ending up in refugee camps in surrounding countries like Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

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