‘150 asylum seekers possibly at risk due to error on COA site’

Due to a data breach at the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA), at least 150 suspected victims of human trafficking may have been endangered. Their personal details were accidentally published on the COA site, reports NRC.

In June, a total of almost 1,200 reports of suspicions of trafficking in human beings ended up online. The reports were made by COA employees to the police. According to the NRC, these were, for instance, descriptions of how “scantily clad” women are picked up at night on the parking lot of an asylum seekers‘ centre. There are also reports of homosexuals who fear their families and abusers.

Following a request under the Government Information (Public Access) Act (WoB), the reports were placed on the COA site. Privacy-sensitive information must be made anonymous. According to COA, this was not done due to “human error“. After NRC and the programme Argos on NPO Radio 1 discovered this and informed COA, the information was immediately taken offline.

Relocated or police

As a result of the data breach, at least 150 asylum seekers can be identified, for example via their name, date of birth, telephone number or place of residence. According to COA, they have all been informed. In the case of two people, the risk was estimated to be so great that immediate action was taken: one asylum seeker was moved to another COA location, for someone else the police was called in.

According to NRC, State Secretary Broekers-Knol responded to the error in a letter to the House of Representatives: “This should not have happened”

The reports also contain details of possible suspects of human trafficking and smuggling. In consultation with the Public Prosecution Service, it was decided not to inform them. “Only when it is clear that there is no criminal investigation going on into these suspects can any information be provided”, says a COA spokesperson to NRC.