Child asylum seekers going missing from UK government hotels at 'incredibly alarming' rate
Unaccompanied child refugees are going missing from unregulated UK government hotels at "an alarming rate", experts have said, with one child disappearing from residential facilities per week last year according to data.
A freedom of information request to Kent and Sussex police forces revealed that 16 child asylum seekers were reported missing from hotel accommodation between 20 July and 25 November in 2021, said The Independent. Only seven of these 16 have since been located.
The New Arab found that 13 unaccompanied asylum seeking children were recorded as missing from hotels by Kent Police from July 1 to November 30, "of whom 12 were reported missing in November 2021". So far five were found safe.
TNA did not receive a response from the Sussex Police.
Maddie Harris, the founder of Human for Rights Network (HRN), called the figures “incredibly alarming”.
She added that this data only accounts for asylum seekers who are recognised as child refugees. Harris said she encountered a number of minors who were incorrectly deemed to be an adult by UK authorities, and asked: “how many of them are missing?”
When questioned about why the number of missing children was so high, she speculated that it could be that they were found by traffickers or due to mental health issues.
"It all points to the fact these children are incredibly open to exploitation," said Harris.
A British government spokesperson told The New Arab: "The government takes the issue of any child going missing extremely seriously and we work closely with local authorities to ensure vulnerable children are supported appropriately."
"Local authorities are responsible for all looked-after children in their area and have a statutory duty to protect children."
Local authorities are charged with looking after unaccompanied children asylum seekers according to policy, said Harris. However, she added that responsibility ultimately lies with the Home Office.
The UK Home Office has been using unregulated hotels to accommodate child migrants since July 2021.
British charity the Refugee Council was contracted by the UK government department to provide advice and support for children asylum seekers in hotels at the end of September 2021. This was a temporary measure and The New Arab understands that the arrangement will end this month because hotels failed to "meet the needs" of the young migrants.
There are over 150 hotels used by the UK government to house asylum seekers.
Around four of these are for children, according to Harris.