Child asylum seekers increasingly disappearing from Dutch shelters: report

King Willem-Alexander at an asylum center
King Willem-Alexander on visit to the asylum center in Ter Apel, 19 Jan 2016 (Photo: @koninklijkhuis/Twitter). (Photo: Rotapool / Robin van Lonkhuijsen via RVD, @koninklijkhuis / Twitter))

Last year 360 asylum seekers, including 210 children, disappeared from asylum shelters in the Netherlands. That's a 20 percent increase compared to 2017, the Volkskrant reports based on figures from the central agency for the reception of asylum seekers COA.

The increase is even more striking, because the residents of the six locations that offer shelter to families who did not get asylum also decreased this past year, from 1,770 to 1,300, according to the newspaper.

"The fear of detention and deportation is so great that families prefer illegality above returning to the country of origin, where the have no prospects", Martine Goeman, lawyer at children's rights organization Defense for Children, said to the Volkskrant. 

The sober conditions in the family shelters also play a role, Goeman added. These shelters are set up for asylum seekers' return to their home country, not for long stays. Yet many asylum seekers opt for fighting their deportation, with the result that they sometimes stay in such a location for years.

A side note is that the 170 of child asylum seekers that disappeared from shelters last year is fewer than at the height of the asylum crisis in 2015 and 2016, when 190 and 230 children decided to go into hiding.