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Nearly 5,000 refugee children missing in Germany: report

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Refugee children at a facility in Berlin. Photo: DPA.
10:12 CET+01:00
Government officials have told the Frankfurter Rundschau that nearly 5,000 children and teens were reported as missing from refugee homes as of January 1st.

As of January 1st, 4,749 unaccompanied refugee children and teens had been reported missing, a German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) spokesperson told Frankfurter Rundschau (FR) on Tuesday. 

A spokesperson for the BKA confirmed the report to The Local.

About 10 percent, or 431, of those children were under the age of  13 and 4,287 were between the ages of 14 and 17. The remaining 31 were over 18.

This is a sharp rise from six months ago in July when 1,637 were reported missing.

The BKA told The Local that sometimes missing children will turn up again and that the numbers could be distorted if one child is reported as missing in multiple places, or with slightly different personal information.

But the BKA said that they could not rule out that some of the children had been victims of crime. 

Europol reported on Sunday that at least 10,000 refugee children had gone missing in Europe over the last 24 months.

"This does not mean that something happened to all of them," a Europol spokesperson had told DPA regarding the report. "A portion of the children could in fact be staying with relatives. But it does mean that these children are potentially at risk."

The president of the German Child Protection Agency, Heinz Hilgers, told FR that unaccompanied children can be "easy targets" and could be exploited by criminals.

"These perpetrators are not necessarily paedophiles," Hilgers explained. "They have a disease that many people around the world have: That for them it totally does not matter how they make their money."

A representative from the German Association for Unaccompanied Underage Refugees (BumF) blamed the number of missing children in part on the process of refugee registration in Germany.

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"It is not only the system of how refugees come to Europe, but also the registration process in Germany," said Niels Espenhorst of BumF, adding that when children are not properly registered upon arrival at temporary care facilities, they may fall through the cracks.

Espenhorst explained that when juveniles are brought to places without any prospects, "they escape into illegality and are extremely vulnerable".

In the most high profile case of a refugee child disappearing, a Bosnian boy called Mohamed Januzi went missing from outside a government building in Berlin last autumn.

A man later admitted to abducting and killing the boy.

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