More than 1,600 children are reportedly missing since 2015 from the Dutch asylum centers, according to COA, the central agency for the reception of asylum seekers in the Netherlands, and Nidos, an independent family guardian organization that fulfils the guardianship task for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers.
The two Dutch organizations told the NRC newspaper that there are reasons to believe that some of these children may have ended up in harmful circumstances that may lead to various form of exploitation. Moreover, many children asylum seekers leave the centers in order to reunite with family members or friends in Germany, Belgium or France.
As told to NRC by a police unit in Rotterdam, they have regular street encounters with foreign minors, who they sent by taxi to Ter Apel, the location where the asylum procedures are initiated. However, one police officer mentioned to NRC that children “are dropped off at the center's door, but might not enter, or sometimes leave again a few hours later even before they are assigned a guardian”.
According to the statistics, about 700 missing children are from Morocco, Algeria and Afghanistan, countries that are considered “safe” by authorities, and the respective children may not be granted the refugee status. On the other hand, the 250 missing children from Syria and Eritrea have higher chances to attain the permission for residency.
Drawing attention to the issue of the missing children from asylum shelters, Herman Bolhaar, the National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking, requested the Dutch government to work more on finding and protecting this vulnerable group of children.