Some 884 refugee children under the age of 13 are still missing in Germany, more than in the summer of 2016 at the height of the refugee crisis, according to the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung (NOZ).
The German regional daily reported the findings on Wednesday, citing information from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), adding that there were about 2,300 young people aged 14-17 who were registered as missing.
The German Children's Fund (Deutsche Kinderhilfswerk) said that the figures only showed a slight decline compared to October 2018 when 902 children and 2,556 adolescents aged 14-17 were reported missing. In the summer of 2016, there were 8,046 refugees missing, with 867 of them being refugee minors, it said.
"Little is known about the situation of the missing young refugees," Holger Hofmann, the federal managing director of the fund told the NOZ, demanding more intensive search measures from the government.
Criminal networks try to contact unaccompanied minor refugees and exert psychological pressure on them or use violence to get them to leave care facilities, Hofmann said.
The BKA argues that several factors make it difficult to arrive at an exact number, including refugees who are listed multiple times due to different spellings of their name as well as those missing for just a few days and others who haven't been seen in decades.
The problem of missing children and adolescents has long been known by German authorities. It is always pointed out by the authorities that, in some cases, multiple registrations could be the cause, or the unaccompanied refugees might have tried to move to other European countries to find their relatives. As credible information is lacking, however, it is equally possible that some of the children and young people were victims of criminals.
In July 2017, nearly 6,000 children were listed as missing in Germany. According to statistics, 945 children aged 13 and under were filed as missing, while the number for children aged between 14 to 17 stood at 5,502.
The German Children's Fund has mnay times urged the government to take concrete steps to ensure safety of the refugee children as they face the danger of falling into the hands of criminal organizations, and that most of the refugee children who went to Europe did not have any relatives there.