The UN’s human rights committee has called on the Dutch government to do more to find out what has happened to hundreds of children who have disappeared from refugee centres over the past few years.
In June it emerged that 1,600 child asylum seekers have gone missing from their accommodation in the last four and a half years, raising fears that some may have been pushed into street crime and prostitution.
While some children leave their accommodation to live with family members across the border in Germany, Belgium or France, refugee agencies say there are strong indications that others are exploited by criminal networks.
In its report, the UN committee states that the government should intensify its efforts ‘to investigate the phenomenon of missing unaccompanied minors, address its underlying causes and prevent such future occurrences’.
It also wants the government to improve living conditions at refugee family centres and ensure that the best interests of the child is given primary considerations in all asylum requests involving children.
In addition, the committee said it is concerned about the growing number of migrant workers, particularly from Eastern Europe, who are ‘coerced by employment agencies to work under exploitative conditions’.
The report calls on the government to set up an effective complaints procedure so that migrant workers, including undocumented migrants, can file complaints about being exploited, without fear of deportation.
And, it says, the government should beef up inspections in sectors where most migrants work, particularly those from Eastern Europe.
Currently some 250,000 people from Poland, Romania and Bulgaria work in the Netherlands, often doing poorly paid work on short term contracts.
Poland’s ambassador to the Netherlands also recently sounded the alarm about dodgy staffing agencies and the abuse of Dutch labour laws to exploit migrant workers.
‘People are being brought to the Netherlands under false pretences and have to work here in poor conditions, while being excluded from Dutch society,’ he told the AD.
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