Disappointed refugees driven to prostitution | Germany Guide for Refugees | DW | 24.04.2017
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Germany Guide for Refugees

Disappointed refugees driven to prostitution

German NGOs have claimed that a growing number of migrants are having sex with older men for money. InfoMigrants spoke with these NGOs to learn more about this tragic phenomenon.

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A 16-year old Syrian-Palestinian youth who came to Germany in 2015 was hoping to eventually bring his family with him. He especially wanted to bring his eight-year-old sister. His family is still in Damascus, but he now lives in Germany's capital, Berlin. The boy was below 18 years of age when he arrived in Germany and received protection and shelter from the German youth office. As soon as he turned 18 however, he was forced to leave the youth center.

In Berlin, he was forced to live with other asylum seekers in a gymnasium, like dozens of other newcomers.   There were no social workers to take care of the asylum seekers and no security personnel. During his stay at the gym, some of the young boys who lived in the same area as him harassed him. They beat him, threatened him and mocked him repeatedly.

He was afraid of being deported as he only had secondary protection for one year. He left the gym and disappeared. He did not have a proper address and could therefore not receive any financial aid from the German government. He then entered the world of prostitution and drug abuse. He offered "sexual services" to an older man in exchange for a place to stay for half a year.

This is just one example provided to InfoMigrants from Diana Henniges who works at the German refugee aid initiative "Moabit Hilft" in Berlin. Germany is witnessing a rise in prostitution among young asylum seekers from countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and Iraq. The refugee prostitutes are anywhere between 16 to 25 years old. Some are even as old as 35.

Refugees alone without families

Many young refugees came to Germany without a parent or guardian. "Turning 18 doesn't necessarily mean that the child has become an adult and this is what authorities forget," Hennigis said. How prone these young refugees are to entering the sex trade relies on a variety of factors such as asylum status and level of education. Drug addiction or homelessness can also play a role.

Ralf Rötten, the director of the "Hilfe für Jungs" ("Help for Boys") youth support organization in Berlin, confirmed to InfoMigrants that there were many younger refugees who sold their bodies for money. His social workers met them in Berlin and advised them on AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.  Most of the refugees were in their twenties and came from Syria, Iraq, and other Arab countries.  Five of the organization's employees counseled nearly 300 refugees in the Tiergarten park in Berlin recently.

Berlin Initiative Moabit hilft (picture-alliance/dpa/J. Carstensen)

The Moabit Hilft refugee support organization

Obstacles for youth health organizations

Although these organizations seek to assist these young people, they themselves are supported by donations and government funds. The issue for non-profit organizations in Germany is that they have to constantly apply for support from the government in order to pay worker's salaries.

In addition to social workers who speak German, they also need people who can speak languages such as Arabic, French, Dari and Pashto. In one case, the organization hired a translator but government authorities had only given financial support to pay for the position for three months.

Some young people get secondary protection for a year only to be disappointed because they are unable to reunite with their families. They might also be afraid to be deported. They are forced to leave refugee homes and seek other sources of livelihood. Organizations such as "Moabit Hilft" and Hilfe für Jungs" can play a vital role in supporting those refugees.

"Some young refugees in Berlin are not in good shape at the moment and much remains to be done for them," Henniges said.

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Source: InfoMigrants 2017

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