Refugee crisis: People traffickers luring families on to boats by allowing children to go 'free of charge'

A worker for Unicef has said 10-year-olds cost half the price of their parents, and children and babies can board for free

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The Independent Online

Refugee families are being lured onto dangerous vessels to escape war-torn countries by the promise of children going "free of charge".

A worker for Unicef has said 10-year-olds cost half the price of their parents, and children and babies can board for free, in the tarrifs drawn up by smugglers offering passage over the sea.

While the image of drowned toddler Aylan Kurdi has been published across the world this week, yet more young children are being washed up, dead, on beaches on the Libyan coast.

People smugglers who have set up routes of escape for desperate families from Turkey to Greece are letting children go free because they do not take up much space on the boat, a charity worker has said.

Chris Tidey, from Unicef, told the Sunday Mirror the practice of letting children go free was bringing people smugglers yet more desperate customers and was "trading in misery".

"We've spoken to people who have paid up to 1,200 euro (£900) and their infants got in the dinghy for free. Their older kids were 10 so they were charged 600 euro - half price.

"It's trading in misery. All the children, especially those unaccompanied or separated from their families, are particularly vulnerable."

A Turkish security official confirmed that "offers" were taking place to bring people aboard, reported the Sunday Mirror.

Meanwhile, Mr Tidey said he was also aware of supposed safety talks by people smugglers in case of danger. It surmounted to "cut the boat and start yelling for help" from other refugee boats if they got into difficulties.

The International Organisation for Migration said at least 364,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe this year. More than 2,800 are thought to have died, many of hundreds of which are thought to be children.

Prime Minister David Cameron said earlier this week that the UK would not take more refugees from the Middle East.

However, he has since said "thousands" more will be given asylum in the UK, but from camps in Syria rather than from those who have already fled the area.

Not enough is known about the people smugglers who are transporting people and charging huge sums whilst making a profit. In January The Guardian reported that one smuggler had made more than a million pounds in just six months.

Many are thought to be based in Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Italy and Pakistan, the BBC also reported earlier in the year.

The focus on the deaths of migrants was highlighted this week, more than four years since the civil war in Syria began, by the little body of Aylan Kurdi being washed up on a Turkish beach. His mother and five-year-old brother Ghalib died too, after the boat they were in with their father and other refugees capsized.

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