Over 1,600 child asylum seekers in the Netherlands have gone missing from their accommodation in the last four and a half years, and most of them are Moroccan.
According to data from the Dutch news outlet NRC Handelsblad, Moroccan children make up the largest demographic that have been disappearing. Data reports that 325 of the asylum seekers that went missing are Moroccan. Children from Algeria made up the second largest group at 190, while asylum seekers from Afghanistan (167), Syria and Eritrea (114 each) also accounted for the large losses.
Morocco and Algeria are both considered “safe” countries, meaning these citizens have little chance of being granted asylum in the Netherlands, and likely face being sent back to their country of origin. Moroccan children who made the journey to the Netherlands from Africa might be struggling with the reality that they are unwelcome to stay.
The Dutch policy for individuals who do not receive asylum establishes that “foreign nationals who have no right of residence in the Netherlands must leave the country.” The government can offer financial assistance for their return, but “anyone who does not leave voluntarily can be expelled.”
While some children leave their housing to live with family members in the nearby countries of Germany, Belgium, or France, information from the detention centers says other children are exploited by criminal networks.
Social workers with Nidos, an organization which regulates guardianship for asylum seekers under 18, said they had encountered Moroccan children with shopping lists of perfume, clothes, and other items they had been ordered to steal on commission. Many of the children battle addictions to Clonazepam, a drug used to treat seizures and panic attacks.
Police in Rotterdam said they have frequently picked up minors in the city and took them to the central housing center in Ter Apel, but the children either refused to go into the shelter or left again during the night.
Police have been called to deal with incidents involving asylum seekers 4,600 times in 2018, according to the annual justice ministry report on asylum seekers in the Netherlands.
Though there were nearly 600 asylum seekers of Moroccan nationality in the Netherlands, asylum seekers who come from Morocco and Algeria accounted for almost half the incidents involving shoplifting or pickpocketing.
Police also registered cases of physical abuse, threatening behavior, and damage to property. In addition, the figures include suicides, suicide threats, and violation of house rules in asylum seekers’ centers.
In 2013, the police, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Nidos, and COA noted problems with Moroccan children hopping from day to day care through Europe.
The Netherlands comes 7th in the list of European countries with 21,945 asylum requests. Germany tops the list with 173,640.