Daily Tragedies in Ter Apel: Almost Every Day a Child Disappears

A pile of children shoes captured during refugees crisis. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 6 September 2015. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Mstyslav Chernov)

360 unaccompanied immigrant minors have disappeared from Dutch asylum centers since January last year. By far the most children disappeared from application center Ter Apel: 237 in total.

In 2022, 4,449 unaccompanied immigrant children applied for asylum in the Netherlands, according to figures from COA, the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers.

After a child first applies to the immigration service in Ter Apel, he or she is assigned a place in an asylum seekers’ center somewhere in the Netherlands. But what turns out: many of these children never arrive at the intended location.

The missing figures are merciless: nearly 10 percent of immigrant minors go missing, according to the missing figures that were requested by Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad in collaboration with journalist collective Lost in Europe and Argos. A large proportion of these children end up in the criminal circuit or in prostitution, the Expertise Center for Human Trafficking and Human Smuggling reports. “German and Dutch older men regularly pick up dark girls and boys just outside the asylum seekers’ center,” villagers from Ter Apel informed Lost in Europe. 

Not only in the Netherlands do children disappear from asylum centers.

Alarm was raised in England early this year because children were systematically disappearing from hotels used as emergency shelters.

In a year and a half, 136 unaccompanied children disappeared from a hotel in Brighton. Staff at the shelter told weekly The Observer that teenagers were being kidnapped on the streets and pushed into cars.

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