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24 young asylum seekers in Brussels are missing

09:04 12/01/2023

Several dozen young refugees who applied for asylum in Belgium are officially missing, according to Catholic aid organisation Caritas.

Caritas is attempting to locate these missing minors on behalf of Fedasil, the Belgian agency that handles migration.

“On this Human Trafficking Awareness Day, we note that 24 unaccompanied minor refugees are officially missing due to failing reception policies,” Refugee Council Flanders tweeted on Wednesday.

“Because the youngsters sleep on the streets, among other things, they more easily fall prey to human traffickers.”

The Belgian refugee system has been overwhelmed for some time now, with a backlog of applications and a line of asylum seekers so long that refugees are often forced to sleep on the streets.

While families and unaccompanied minors are normally given priority, the crisis has reached such proportions that aid organisations say even these especially vulnerable refugees are finding themselves without shelter.

In November, an estimated 150 young people had to spend the night on the streets, Cartias said.

Now 24 of them are now officially missing, according to the organisation.

“The young people were last seen in Brussels, at the Immigration Department,” Laurence Bruyneel, coordinator at Caritas, told Bruzz.

“About three young people still came to the hub, but then they disappeared off the radar.”

The missing young people are from Congo, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Tanzania and Afghanistan.

“We have no idea where they are currently, some may have travelled on to other countries, others may have been picked up by gangs or ended up in prostitution,” Bruyneel said.

The situation is somewhat exceptional, according to aid agencies. While refugees often go missing, this is less common after they have already begun an asylum application.

“The other aid organisations were also asked to keep an eye out,” Caritas says.

In the meantime, Fedasil has created an official case file for the missing minors.

Written by Helen Lyons