More than 100 unaccompanied child migrants are missing from UK hotels amid concerns of drug and sex trafficking

Charities are concerned that drug and sex trafficking gangs are exploiting lone child migrants

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Thomas Brooke
People thought to be migrants who undertook the crossing from France in small boats and were picked up in the Channel, pass along a walkway above confiscated dinghies after being disembarked from a British border force vessel, in Dover, south east England, Friday, June 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Over 100 unaccompanied child migrants have gone missing from British hotels accommodating undocumented migrants over the past year, data reveals.

According to the Home Office, a total of 1,606 children arrived in the U.K. alone between July 2021 and June 2022 and were placed in a hotel due to housing shortages.

Of this figure, more than a tenth, or 181 migrants, under the age of 18 disappeared from their accommodation between July 2021 and August 2022, according to a Freedom of Information request filed at the Home Office by BBC Two’s Newsnight. While 65 were subsequently located, 116 children remain missing, with charities and human rights groups concerned they could have been trafficked into the underground drug or sex industry.

According to Home Office guidelines, unaccompanied child migrants are only supposed to reside in a hotel accommodation for a period of 15 days before they are “moved to long-term care.” However, the department insisted that due to the influx in asylum applications and overseas arrivals via the English Channel, they have had “no alternative” but to use hotels while more appropriate accommodation is sought.

“We know more needs to be done,” the Home Office said in a statement.

“That is why we are working closely with local authorities to increase the number of placements available and offer councils £6,000 for every child they can provide accommodation for.

“Any child going missing is extremely serious, and we work around the clock with the police and local authorities to urgently locate them and ensure they are safe,” the department added.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils, told the BBC it had been “working tirelessly to find suitable placements for unaccompanied children” and had located 597 placements for child migrants in the last six months.

“They could be working away in a cannabis farm, in a factory, domestic servitude,” said chief executive of the ECPAT UK charity, Patricia Durr.

“There’s a whole range of exploitative situations that these young people could be in. They could be being criminally exploited or sexually exploited behind closed doors,” she added.

The Home Affairs Select Committee called on the government back in July to “immediately and clearly confirm where responsibility lies for every aspect of safeguarding children housed in accommodation,” when fears over this under-reported consequence of illegal immigration first surfaced.

A total of 3,462 undocumented migrants have landed in Britain so far in October in less than a fortnight. More than 1,100 arrived across the English Channel over the weekend, while 539, 374, and 856 arrived on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, respectively.

Newly appointed Home Secretary Suella Braverman promised to crack down on illegal immigration in her speech last week at the Conservative Party’s annual conference, held this year in Birmingham. She said that it was “her dream” to witness the departure of a plane full of asylum seekers for the African nation of Rwanda, which has an agreement with the United Kingdom to accommodate migrants while their asylum applications are being processed. 

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