LONDON – Around 200 unaccompanied minors – mostly Albanian teenagers – have disappeared from the hotels where they were staying while waiting for their asylum claims to be resolved, sparking the indignation of rights defenders who are demanding a greater protection and the demand that lawmakers fix the problem.
The missing children are among the tens of thousands who have arrived in Britain on small boats after crossing the English Channel in recent years.
Most of the young asylum seekers are housed in hotels waiting for the Ministry of the Interior to decide their destination, and he claims that they are free to come and go at will despite his age.
Some officials, citing conversations with local authorities, say they believe many of the missing have been taken by criminal gangs and exploitedwhich raises big questions about government failures.
The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but confirmed that at least 200 asylum-seeking children have disappeared from hotels.
Opposition lawmakers have questioned the entire children’s housing scheme.
An investigation published this week by the newspaper The observer on a hotel in the Sussex area of southern England, it revealed that of the approximately 600 unaccompanied under-18s who have walked through its doors in the past 18 months, 136 have been reported missing, with 79 still at home in location unknown.
Last year, data released by the government proved it more than 222 Unaccompanied minor asylum seekers had disappeared from hotels across Britain run by the Home Office.
The government has responded to widespread criticism this week with a series of statements.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said of the 4,600 asylum-seeking children who have arrived in Britain since 2021, around 440 were missing and only half have been traced.
The local police are in charge of searching for the missing, but have only managed to locate a few.
Of the 200 children left missing, most are older teenagers, but 13 are under 16 years old and one is female.
The majority, 88%, is of Albanian nationality.
Last year, of the nearly 40,000 people who crossed the dangerous canal, around 13,000 were Albanians and the prime minister’s government Rishi Sunak he promised to crack down on these arrivals and reject their asylum claims.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Jenrick said that while the reports were worrying, he had seen no evidence of children being abducted from hotels.
“We have no power to hold unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors in these places, and we know some go missing,” he said, acknowledging that asylum-seekers were free to leave the hotels.
Peter Kyle, a Labor Opposition MP for Hove, the area where the hotel described in the Observer report was located, lashed out at the in action of the government during an impassioned statement in Parliament on Tuesday.
“The inconvenient truth for us is that if even one child related to anyone in this room disappeared, the world would stop,” he said.
“But in the community I represent, one child is missing, then five are missing, then a dozen are missing, then 50 are missing,” she said, adding that more than 70 are missing “and nothing is happening.”
Yvette Cooper, who heads Labour’s immigration policy, speaking on ‘BBC Breakfast’ on Thursday morning, said reports of missing asylum seekers showed the Conservative government had failed to take serious steps to tackle the problem. .
“There’s a pattern, but nobody’s investigating it properly,” he said.
“There is no specific unit that goes after them and says: ‘this is a scheme’, where young people are trafficked through the channel and then destined for cannabis plantations – or prostitution in some of the worst cases.” -, but al organized crime, picked up outside these hotels”.
Hotels have been used to house asylum seekers in Britain for years due to a shortage of other temporary accommodation.
In July 2021, unaccompanied minors arriving in Britain also started being accommodated in hotels.
The UK Home Office is responsible for this accommodation but works with private companies to provide the accommodation and also outsources program management to another company.
As people’s waiting time for a decision on their asylum claim has steadily increased in recent years, so has the number of people staying in these hotels, and rights groups have long criticized The conditions within these structures.
The groups have specifically warned that hosting unaccompanied minors in hotels fails to safeguard some of the most vulnerable asylum seekers and said they have called for changes to the way the government processes asylum claims.
More than 100 charities have called in an open letter to the government to take action on the missing children, demanding that the Home Office stop placing children in “unsafe hotels, where they could be targeted by criminals”.
Enver Solomon, director of the Refugee Council, one of the organizations behind the letter, said in a statement that the government has “a very clear legal duty” to protect these children, but that it “is not doing so, with the equivalent to different classes of children who seem to have disappeared into the clutches of those who will exploit and abuse them”.
“We know from our work that children who have experienced unimaginable horror and upheaval and have come to our country in search of safety are highly traumatized and vulnerable,” she said, adding:
“This is a child protection scandal that councils, police and ministers urgently need to address to ensure that every separated child matters and they are safe.”
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Mark Jones is a world traveler and journalist for News Rebeat. With a curious mind and a love of adventure, Mark brings a unique perspective to the latest global events and provides in-depth and thought-provoking coverage of the world at large.