Two hundred unaccompanied minors are still missing from Home Office-commissioned hotels after being kidnapped, the UK's immigration minister admitted yesterday.
The kidnapping of minors was revealed in an Observer investigation, in which an unnamed security guard said he had repeatedly told the Home Office that he had witnessed criminal gangs loitering outside and bundling children into cars.
On Monday, Minister Simon Murray admitted that since the Home Office started using hotels to house children in July 2021, 4,600 had been placed in them, 440 have gone missing, and 200 are still unaccounted for. Thirteen of these 200 children are under 16.
This is despite the fact that police warned the Home Office that the children were vulnerable and would be targeted by criminal networks.
The Home Office also rejected an offer by a group of anti-trafficking organisations to assess the safety of the hotels.
Other charities have raised safeguarding concerns for unaccompanied children, including that they are not looked after properly and that they do not have a care plan or a social worker.
Baroness Armstrong of the Labour Party warned of safeguarding concerns raised by visitors to the hotel:
"They know that predators are around. And we know that predators are one step ahead, in terms of child trafficking, and indeed, of child sexual abuse, than most of the organisations are around to safeguard."
The chief inspector of borders and immigration said that the "failure to effectively identify and assess the needs of these young people, and to ensure that the operation to house them could meet these needs, led to inconsistent safeguarding and welfare outcomes."
Brighton and Hove City Council has requested a meeting with the Home Office to discuss the missing children.
The Labour Party has called for an urgent investigation, as has the Refugee Council.