Thank you to all those who contacted me about reports of missing asylum-seeking children.
I am deeply concerned by recent reports that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children have gone missing from Home Office-procured hotel accommodation. On 24 January 2023, the Immigration Minister admitted that 200 asylum-seeking children remained missing. They include at least 13 children under the age of 16.
According to Sussex Police, one in four unaccompanied children in a single hotel have gone missing and around half of them are still missing. It would therefore appear that this one hotel accounts for 40% of the missing children. I believe the Home Office must immediately end its contract with the hotel in question and move the children to safer accommodation.
The Government should also consider the need for a proper inquiry and team to pursue the links between organised crime, trafficking and children in these hotels. We need urgent and serious action to crack down on the criminal gangs, and to keep children and young people safe.
Additionally, decisions on asylum claims desperately need to be sped up. People are being left in limbo for years, with genuine refugees being denied the help they need. However, instead of getting a grip on the growing asylum backlog, the Government is resorting to unworkable and unethical gimmicks such as the Rwanda policy.
The Government should instead reform resettlement schemes to better target those most at risk of exploitation by trafficking and smuggler gangs, such as those with family connections in the UK. A replacement for the Dublin agreement, which included safe returns and safe family reunions, should be negotiated. We must also work internationally to address crises leading people to flee their homes.