At least 360 minors have disappeared from refugee centres in the Netherlands since January 2022, most of whom vanished from the Ter Apel reporting centre.
Last year, 4,449 minors without parents or other relatives applied for asylum in the Netherlands, according to figures from refugee settlement agency COA. The children are first required to report to Ter Apel and are then relocated to a new centre. However, many of them disappear en route.
The figures come from journalism collective Lost in Europe, which investigates the disappearance of child migrants in Europe, and radio programme Argos.
It remains unclear what has happened to the children. Some are known to have travelled on to join family elsewhere in Europe but a number are likely to end up in the hands of criminals or in the sex trade.
Reports cited by Lost in Europe indicated that Ter Apel residents have reported seeing “dark-skinned boys and girls” being picked up by older Dutch and German men outside the refugee centre.
In 2000 Herman Bolhaar, the national rapporteur on human trafficking said the Dutch government must do more to stop Vietnamese children disappearing from special accommodation for refugee children without parents.
One of the young teenagers who died in a refrigerated lorry in England in 2019 had run away from a secure unit for vulnerable refugees in the Netherlands.
Dutch research published in 2020 showed that 75% of the young asylum seekers who vanished were aged 15 to 17 and 88% were male. Some 50% vanish within a year of registration. Most were Moroccan (260) Eritrean (240) and Afghan (170).
The report did not look into the specific issue of girls being trafficked for prostitution.
In the late 2000s, over 100 Nigeria girls disappeared from Dutch refugee centres, several of whom were later found in Italian brothels.
Over the past six years, 1,807 minors disappeared from Dutch refugee centres and in Europe as a whole 18,000 were lost track of between 2018 and 2021, Argos said.
The situation is similar in other countries. In England earlier this year it emerged that 136 children had vanished from a hotel in Brighton on the south coast.
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