1,600 children missing from Dutch asylum shelters: report

An earlier version of this article stated that "16,000" children were missing, and not "1,600". The new text reflects more accurate information. We regret the typographical error.

Over 1,600 children disappeared from asylum centers in the Netherlands over the past 4.5 years, NRC reports based on figures from the central agency for the reception of asylum seekers COA and Nidos, the organization that has custody of all unaccompanied foreign minors in the Netherlands. These kids left the asylum centers and their current whereabouts are unknown, the newspaper writes.

There are signs that some missing child asylum seekers have ended up in detrimental situations where they may be subject to exploitation, the two organizations told the newspapers. In many cases, missing children left to join family or friends in Germany, Belgium or France. Nidos and the COA told NRC that it is "always worrying" when a child disappears from a shelter.

"Every child is one too many", Nidos director Tim Verstegen said to the newspaper. 

Earlier this year the National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking Herman Bolhaar called on the government to do more to find and protect children who disappear from asylum centers.

The group of children who disappear from the asylum process is likely larger than the 1,600 known cases, according to NRC. A police unit in Rotterdam specialized in cases involving foreign people said they regularly find foreign minors, who are then put in a taxi and sent to the reception center in Ter Apel. It is at that location that their asylum procedure begins.

Sadly not all children report to the reception center, a police officer said to the newspaper. They 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. 

Figures showed that 325 missing children are from Morocco, another 190 are from Algeria, and 167 are from Afghanistan. Together, the 682 missing children were unlikely to be granted refugee status in the Netherlands because those countries are considered "safe". The 114 missing kids from Syria and another 114 from Eritrea were far more likely to be granted a residency permit.

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