Picture shows traffic at the San Ludovico bridge, at the Italian-French border
Picture shows traffic at the San Ludovico bridge, at the Italian-French border

Young migrant girls are being forced into prostitution in the Ligurian border city of Ventimiglia to pay for their food and accomodation or to be smuggled into France, according to a new report by Save the Children (StC) released ahead of the World Day against Human Trafficking on July 30. The girls are mostly from the Horn of Africa or sub-Saharan African countries and they have to pay smugglers between 50 and 150 euros to take them by car across the border, Save the Children says.

The situation has become more critical following the clearance of the informal camp along the river Roja in April 2018, which left many young people living on the streets in what staff have described as "degraded, promiscuous and dangerous conditions." 

Young Eritreans 'worst affected' 

StC reports that Eritreans are most at risk due to an increase in their numbers with respect to other nationalities in the first few months of 2018. "The lack of safe and legal pathways for refugee and migrant children" fuels "smuggling, exposing the minors to various forms of abuse and exploitation including survival sex, namely prostitution in order to meet an extreme need for survival," reads the report. Part of the problem is to do with the fact that many young people abandon their formal reception facilities and attempt to make their own way north.

According to Labor Ministry data, as of May 31, 2018, in total 4,570 unaccompanied foreign minors were untraceable having left their accommodation. The majority were Eritrean, Somali, Afghani, Egyptian and Tunisian and had been in reception facilities in southern regions which host 42 per cent of unaccompanied minors. The report estimated that almost 10 million children and adolescents were forced into a state of slavery worldwide in 2016, meaning they were sold and exploited for work and-or sex. 

Mobile unit to provide protection

In response, Save the Children (StC) and other organisations are to send a mobile unit to Ventimiglia and to the Piedmont town of Bardonecchia over the next few days to provide support and assistance to the young migrants and to ensure their protection.

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