Children and women face the risk of sexual exploitation as they attempt to reach safety in Europe.

Lesbos, Greece – It took Samira 11 days to travel from Ahfir, in Morocco, to the Greek island of Lesbos. She didn’t know where it was along the Turkish shore that she boarded the dinghy. What mattered to her, as she ran in the dark to avoid the police patrols, was only that it would take her to “the island”, the first stopover on the way to Western Europe.

For almost three hours, as she crossed the 10km of sea, she bent forward so as not to see the waves that crashed against the boat, soaking her feet in icy-cold water.

“I remember the sound of the sea, even though I could not see anything,” says the 32-year-old. “I feared so much for my life that I felt like dying.”

It was when her husband divorced her, leaving her unable to provide for their two children, that she resolved to undertake the perilous journey.

Once on the Greek shore, relief soon turned to angst. Her savings, all she had managed to gather from her family, were missing from the bag she had carefully kept strapped to her back.

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She confronted the group of Moroccan men she thought responsible for the theft. “They told me to continue the trip with them,” she says. “When I refused, they became aggressive and said I would be on my own.”