LONDON: In a troubling disclosure, it has come to light that 144 unaccompanied refugee children are unaccounted for after disappearing from hotels in the UK.
The government is under pressure for the disappearance of around 400 lone children, with ages as young as 12, raising concerns about potential involvement with criminal gangs and fears that some may have met unfortunate fates.
The housing of lone refugee children in hotels was deemed unlawful in July after legal action by the charity Every Child Protected Against Trafficking against Kent County Council. Figures obtained through a freedom of information request indicate a “huge child protection failure,” according to Laura Duran, the charity’s head of policy, advocacy, and research. She emphasized the vulnerability of these children, who may face exploitation, abuse, or even death.
The National reported that 50 of the missing children are from a hotel in Brighton, which the government plans to continue using to house under-18s. Earlier reports suggested that people-trafficking gangs were using mobile phone trackers to locate and lure refugee children from British hotels.
Charities have called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to allocate resources to find the missing children, citing a clear legal duty to protect those seeking safety in the country. Advocates stress the need for a serious commitment to providing safe accommodation and protection for these vulnerable children, emphasizing the importance of immediate action from various agencies to investigate and locate missing children and review protection arrangements.
In response, a Home Office representative affirmed the absolute priority of the well-being of children in their care, noting the activation of a multi-agency, missing persons protocol in collaboration with the police and local authorities to locate missing children and ensure their safety.