Extremists who pay for refugee travel are recruiting children, report warns

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Thousands of child refugees are vulnerable to radicalisation as Islamic State exploits the international migration crisis to attract new recruits, a report has warned.

Academics found extremist groups are preying on young asylum seekers fleeing conflict zones in a bid to boost their numbers.  

An estimated 88,000 unaccompanied minors are said to be at risk of radicalisation around Europe. 

The study from counter-extremism organisation Quilliam said children and young people who are indoctrinated and recruited are an "important resource " to IS.

Extremists find ways to "buy" allegiance from refugees by funding their travel or working with traffickers and smugglers, according to the analysis.

While some refugees may have to pay smugglers up to 560 US dollars (£449) to travel towards the Mediterranean coast, IS offers free passage to those willing to join its ranks, the 172-page report said.

It described how extremist groups use education to bolster recruitment, while IS is exploiting food shortages by distributing food in exchange for fighters.

The report also warned that extremist organisations infiltrate refugee communities in their country of destination, providing aid and "using opportunities to preach and proselytise against policies of host countries".

Authors also highlighted figures showing that more than 340 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children went missing in the UK between January and September 2015. Of those, 132 were still missing at the end of that year.

These youngsters at risk of being exploited, financially, sexually, or otherwise, by gangs and human trafficking networks, the paper said.

It concluded that there is a growing evidence base that young, unaccompanied people are more prone to the risks of radicalisation, adding: "These risks intensify when youngsters have fewer opportunities for education and employment.

"It is not only refugees, but also second-and-third-generation immigrants who may be vulnerable to radicalisation as a result of perceived discrimination and a failure to integrate into wider society."

The report identified "hotspots" where refugees and young people are vulnerable to recruitment by extremists in conflict zones, camps and urban centres along the migration route and in the country of destination.

Researcher and co-author Nikita Malik said: "We are currently experiencing the largest movement of asylum seekers since the end of the Second World War.

"The spectrum of threats and vulnerabilities facing refugees coming to the UK and Europe is broad and daunting.

"This report outlines national and international requirements to reduce the risk of child trafficking, extremism and modern slavery."

Later this year, ministers will publish a strategy for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of unaccompanied children after they arrive in Britain.