Dutch police discovered a five-year-old boy who seemed to only speak Turkish all alone in the centre of Maastricht, the Netherlands, on Monday afternoon, Dutch media reported on Tuesday.
The little boy was first taken to the police station, where he responded to a Turkish speaking police officer, and eventually transferred to a shelter.
“Alone in the big city,” the Maastricht police headlined Monday above its own post on Instagram: “This little boy told them [the police] that mum and dad were in Turkey and had been injured by the earthquake there … A hot meal, an ice cream and a chat with a colleague who could speak his language [Turkish] put another smile on his face.”
Dutch police then announced on the same day that the little boy was transferred to a refugee reception centre elsewhere in the country, according to the Dutch media.
The circumstances surrounding the child’s arrival in the Netherlands remain unclear, leading to suspicions of human trafficking. In response, the Turkish Embassy in The Hague has taken the initiative to engage with Dutch Foreign Affairs and security authorities to investigate and shed light on the matter.
Three and a half months have passed since the twin earthquakes struck Turkey and Syria on 6 February, leaving thousands of people, including numerous children, still missing. Many remain buried under rubble that has yet to be cleared or lie unidentified in hastily dug graves scattered throughout the quake-affected region.
Concerns have arisen over the disappearance of children, as there have been reports of unaccompanied children being enticed and abducted by suspicious individuals near tent cities or from hospitals. Some children were transferred to housing facilities associated with pro-government Islamic sects, sparking public outrage. In response, Turkish Family and Social Services Minister, Derya Yanık, made a statement claiming that the missing children from the earthquake-affected areas were likely unidentified children receiving care in hospitals under the ministry’s supervision.
Following the earthquake, a significant number of parliamentary questions were submitted by the opposition MPs regarding the missing persons within the earthquake zone, particularly directed at the Interior and Family ministries. However, some of these inquiries were left unanswered, while others lacked any specific detail regarding the number of missing individuals or how the data is collected and cross-checked. The last two motions presented by opposition MPs were deemed null and void due to the ending of the legislative term, leaving the question of missing persons still unanswered.
Family Minister Derya Yanık announced on Friday that the Turkish Foreign Ministry contacted the Dutch authorities, receiving the information that the child is not of Turkish nationality. “Therefore, the allegation that a young child of Turkish nationality has been found abandoned or unaccompanied in the Netherlands since the morning of today is not true,” she said, excluding possibilities such as the boy being born to a refugee family in Turkey’s quake-hit region.