The role of the protected shelter in the fight against human trafficking
As part of EU Anti-Trafficking Day, Defence for Children - ECPAT Netherlands and Free Press Unlimited have published a series of three perspectives on the fight against human trafficking. In the first interview, Lost in Europe shed light on the perspective of investigative journalism. For the second interview, we spoke to Warner ten Kate, the Dutch National Public Prosecutor for trafficking in human beings and people smuggling, for his view from within the justice system. In this third and last interview we speak to the spokesperson of COA, the Central Reception Organization, taking care of asylum seekers in the Netherlands.
When there are signs of human trafficking and/oror smuggling, the COA places unaccompanied minors in protected shelters. In 2019 this step was taken for 30 children. Despite the security measures, about 20 of them, all Vietnamese, disappeared. We ask the spokesperson of COA how this was possible, and he talks about the challenge of preparing these young people for their uncertain future.
In the first interview, investigative journalist Roeland Termote sketched a picture of the (disappeared) unaccompanied Vietnamese minors. He said:
“They want to go to Europe, preferably to the UK, or their families want that, because they have debts to pay off or see economic opportunities. They think life in Europe is better. Some have had a comfortable journey, others have been abused. They do not like to cooperate with authorities, do not know who to trust. They want to work, or have made a commitment with the smugglers to work to pay off their debts. They are under pressure and don't want to get their families in Vietnam in trouble.”
Does COA also recognize this?
“Yes, that is recognizable. The impression is that they are in transit and do not want to stay in the Netherlands. They usually don't apply for asylum here either. They left [Vietnam] with some kind of promise. Families have often invested heavily and have the hope that they will get a better life, that is the focus. The minors often cannot bring themselves to tell parents or family on the other side of the world that it has not worked out. They have been shown pictures on Facebook of young people who had previously left for Europe: they wear designer clothes and look happy. That is the picture that is being painted and they want to comply with it."
What is the role of COA in the protected shelter in the Netherlands, and what does it entail?
“A young person is entitled to reception in the Netherlands until he or she turns 18, regardless of whether an asylum application is pending or not. The COA and the Nidos Foundation are responsible for this. If there are signs of human trafficking and/or human smuggling among unaccompanied minors, and these may come from several organizations, the COA will provide safe housing in the protected shelter. The COA also provides the necessary resources, such as access to education, and guides young people in preparation for a future in the Netherlands or in the country of origin. To make sure that only minors enter the protected shelter, an age assessment takes place first.
The shelter is provided by two care institutions: XONAR in the south and Yadeborg in the north of the Netherlands. The national organisation Nidos also plays a role. Nidos gives the indication for placement in the protected shelter and all minors in the protected shelter are under the guardianship of Nidos.”