Children crossing the border are being sexually exploited to pay for their safe passage into France from the Italian border, a report by Save the Children Italy, pointed out.
According to the report, the minors, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa are being forced to perform sexual acts if they aren't able to pay the drivers around US$180 to cross the border, with some children even being offered food or shelter in return for the abuse. The charity says it has evidence of many such cases since the beginning of this year.
Raffaela Milano, the director of Italy-Europe programs at Save the Children, wrote in the report, "These are very young, and particularly at-risk girls, who are among the invisible flow of unaccompanied migrant minors in transit at the northern Italian border who, in an attempt to reunite with their relatives or acquaintances in other European countries, are deprived of the opportunity to travel safely and legally."
The report pointed out that migrant children were also being sexually exploited in other parts of Italy, including Rome and the regions of Veneto, Abruzzo, and Marche, as well as the island of Sardinia.
The report indicated that between January 2017 and March 2018, over 1,900 girls had been sexually exploited across the region out of which at least 160 were children, with the rest recently reaching the age of 18 or were pretending to be adults.
"It is unacceptable that in our country children and adolescents end up in the network of unscrupulous exploiters," added Milano, according to the Guardian.
Save the Children report follows an Oxfam report which first reported in June that French border police illegally sent migrant children back to Italy. They were accused of detaining children as young as 12 without food or water, cutting the soles off their shoes so they did not try to attempt the journey again, and stealing Sim cards from their mobile phones.
According to the Oxfam report, of nearly 16,500 migrants, at least a quarter of them children had passed through Ventimiglia in the nine months to April.
The situation in the Italian border town of Ventimiglia was further aggravated after a makeshift camp by the Roya river was dismantled earlier in April. Since then, migrant children had been forced to live on the streets in "degrading, promiscuous and dangerous conditions," the report pointed out.