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Charities call on PM to end ‘emergency’ housing of asylum-seeking children in hotels

26 January 2023

Of 4600 child asylum seekers who have entered the UK since July 2021, 200 are missing

Alamy

The Minister for Immigration, Robert Jenrick, arrives in Downing Street on Tuesday of last week to attend the weekly Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister. Mr Jenrick has been questioned about the Government’s approach to housing child asylum seekers

The Minister for Immigration, Robert Jenrick, arrives in Downing Street on Tuesday of last week to attend the weekly Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime ...

THE Children’s Society is among the more than one hundred charities to call on the Prime Minister to end the practice of housing child asylum seekers in hotels, after it was discovered that more than 200 children missing from Home Office hotels since July 2021 have not been found.

In a letter to Rishi Sunak on Thursday, the charities express “grave concern that separated children seeking asylum are going missing, suspected of being trafficked and criminally exploited, from hotels where they have continued to be accommodated by the Home Office”.

The letter, co-ordinated by ECPAT UK, a children’s rights charity, and the Refugee Council, says that “there is no legal basis for placing children in Home Office hotel accommodation and almost two years into the operation of the scheme, which is both unlawful and harmful, it is no longer possible to justify the use of hotels as being ‘temporary’ . . .

“While the use of hotels for separated children was initially characterised by the Home Office as ‘emergency’ measure to be operated for ‘the very shortest of periods’, it has continued for some 18 months.”

The group of charities, which also includes Barnardo’s and the NSPCC, conclude by requesting “commitment to an end date, after which these practices will not be revived, and an urgent independent inquiry given these significant matters of public concern following the reported failures to protect vulnerable children from harm”.

On Tuesday, the Minister for Immigration, Robert Jenrick, answered questions in the House of Commons about the Government’s approach. He confirmed that, of 4600 child asylum seekers who have entered the UK since July 2021, 440 had gone missing and 200 of those young people had not been located.

The Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, said that the Government had shown a “dereliction of duty”.

Mr Jenrick was responding to an Urgent Question from the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas, after an investigation published in the Observer on Sunday claimed that dozens of children had been abducted by criminal gangs from a hotel in Brighton.

“I have not been presented with evidence that that has happened, but I will continue to make inquiries,” Mr Jenrick said.

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