Investigations from Lost in Europe highlight how Dutch and UK authorities fail to properly care for unaccompanied minors.
Revelations in 2019
In 2019, Lost in Europe-journalists Ismail Einashe and Sanne Terlingen revealed that, in five years time, at least 60 Vietnamese children have disappeared from these protected shelters in The Netherlands. Dutch police and immigration officials suspect the children trafficked into the UK working on cannabis farms and in nail salons.
When unaccompanied underage asylum seekers arrive in the Netherlands, the Dutch organisation Centraal Orgaan Opvang Asielzoekers (COA: Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers) provides them with a guardian to support them through the asylum process. If the Dutch authorities believe a child may be at risk of potential trafficking they are taken to one of two protected shelters, or Beschermde Opvang.
Concerns about traffickers’ access to these shelters have been growing. Protected shelters are used by traffickers as staging posts, where children who have entered the country illegally and unaccompanied can stay while waiting to be collected by the trafficking gangs. The traffickers, some from eastern European countries, often wait in cars outside to pick up the children. The UK is believed to be the end destination for the trafficking ring that starts in Vietnam via eastern Europe and Netherlands and France.
Read the full article published by the Guardian here.
Essex lorry deaths
On 23 October 2019, 39 Vietnamese people were found dead in a lorry. They had been squeezed into a lorry in The Netherlands to arrive inside the container in the UK. Due to rising temperatures and lack of oxygen all of them, aged between 15 and 44, died during that journey.
Ten of the victims were teenagers, of which two of them were Vietnamese minor boys that had been in a protected shelter in Limburg, The Netherlands. They had been placed in that shelter to protect him from human traffickers. When they escaped from the shelter, they were registered as leaving the shelter ‘with unknown destination’ according to the COA.
Argos and NRC Handelsblad reported that many Vietnamese had fallen into the hands of human traffickers failed the protection. A report of the Expertise Centre Human Trafficking and Smuggling (EMM, Expertisecentrum Mensenhandel en Mensensmokkel) revealed that between 2015 and 2018, 78 Vietnamese minors disappeared.
The EMM also flagged the exploitation in nail salons. In the period from 2015 to 2018, the Dutch Inspectorate Social Affairs and Employment (ISZW) started six investigations into Vietnamese and nail studios. Although it was discovered, among other things, that Vietnamese foreign nationals worked for free or for low wages, thus paying off their debt for their migration to the Netherlands, investigations were halted because of “too few concrete investigative options” and because “the priority lay with other investigations”.
More publications on the missing Vietnamese minors that fall into the hands of human traffickers can be found on the Lost in Europe website.
Do you want to support the journalists in their investigations? Do you have tips or evidence that can assist them in revealing more stories on human trafficking? You can reach them via this ‘tip’page.
Photo: © Ben Stallsall.