UK lawmakers demanded answers from the government on Tuesday after officials admitted 200 missing asylum-seeking children at hotels run by the Home Office.
The House of Commons heard an urgent question by Green Party lawmaker Caroline Lucas on what steps the government was taking to ensure the safety of children placed at the hotels and to find asylum-seeking children who were missing.
The disclosure came after The Observer, The Guardian’s sister daily, reported that a whistleblower from a hotel in the seaside city of Brighton, run by the Home Office, claimed that some children had been abducted outside the hotel and forced into cars.
In response to the question, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick stated that over 4,600 unaccompanied children have been accommodated in hotels since July 2021.
"There have been 440 missing occurrences and 200 children remain missing, 13 of whom are under 16 years old and only one is female," he said, reiterating Monday's statement by Simon Murray, parliamentary under-secretary of state.
Jenrick went on to say that they have had no alternative but to temporarily use specialist hotels to give some unaccompanied minors, "a roof over their heads."
"As I've made clear repeatedly, we must end the use of hotels as soon as possible," he said, adding that the government will continue to work for a fair and effective asylum system.
'Incompetence from the Home Office is shameful'
Lucas reacted to the answer by the minister, saying that "this is horrific."
"Vulnerable children are being dumped by the Home Office, scores of them are going missing and I can tell the minister there is nothing specialist about these hotels. We're not asking him to detain children. We're asking the Home Office to apply some basic safeguarding so we can keep them safe."
She asked if the minister knows how many children have been kidnapped, trafficked, put into forced labor and where they are living.
"The staggering complacency and incompetence from the Home Office is shameful. We need immediate answers. We need an urgent investigation and we need to ask how many more children are going to go missing before we actually see some action," added Lucas.
Jenrick replied that he had a talk with the chief executive and director of Children's Services of Brighton and Hove Council and said that there are security guards at the hotel in Brighton to protect the staff and the miners and to raise any suspicious activity immediately with the local police.
Saying that they have a responsibility to any minor regardless of what their reason of staying in the UK is, he added that there is a 36% reduction in the number of missing occurrences following cooperation with police forces.
Later, Lucas said that the minister "utterly fails" to answer her questions on missing children.
"Will Home Office take *legal* as well as practical responsibility? Why isn't Ofsted inspecting hotels? Have all staff been DBS-checked? [Disclosure and Barring Service]? When will hotels close? How many more will go missing before we see action?" she wrote on Twitter.
Source: Anadolu Agency