Nearly 1,600 unaccompanied minors are currently reported as missing in Germany. Nearly 1,000 of them were reportedly aged between 14 and 17 years and just over 600 children were aged 13 and younger.
The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper reported the numbers earlier in the week, citing figures from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). The majority of the missing minors were reported to come from Afghanistan, followed by Morocco, Algeria, Syria and Somalia.
The number of missing minors among Germany’s migrant and refugee population had, however, gone down significantly compared to previous years.
At the height of the so-called refugee crisis in 2016, nearly 9,000 children and young people were missing. By the beginning of 2018, there were 5,334 unaccompanied minors registered as missing. That number dropped to 3,192 children and adolescents at the beginning of 2019.
Outgrowing the statistics
The main reason for the decline in numbers was cited as the declining rate of asylum seekers coming to Germany in recent years.
Additionally, many young people, who would have have qualified to fall under these statistics in the past, had by now reached the age of maturity, and were therefore no longer recorded in the statistics as missing minors.
The BKA said it had a clearance rate of the missing children report of 69% -- a rate that is significantly lower than what was recorded in 2019, when the clearance rate was almost 88%.
The president of the German Children's Fund (Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk) Thomas Krüger called for increased initiatives to protect refugee and migrant children better.
He stressed that German authorities were obliged to help as many missing children as possible: "Especially in view of the current coronavirus pandemic, it is important that the existing child protection and youth welfare measures for unaccompanied refugee children are maintained," he said.
Mistaken identities and more
The majority of the missing children cases, however, were reported to not have any nefarious narratives behind them:
"In many cases, the children do not just run away without a plan, but want to visit their parents, relatives or acquaintances in other German cities or even in other European countries," the newspaper quoted the BKA as saying.
The source added that the statistics also included youths who were registered multiple times due to clerical errors, those who were travelling without a passport as were as young people whose name might have different spellings when transliterated into German.