It was reported this week* that more than 70 children had disappeared from a Hove hotel used by the Home Office to house unaccompanied young asylum seekers. It follows the revelation in the Guardian newspaper in October that more than 220 unaccompanied children were missing from hotels funded by the Home Office, which was rightly described as a “catastrophic child protection failure”.
This statement is on behalf of organisations supporting people who have sought sanctuary in Brighton & Hove, ahead of a debate at a full council meeting of Brighton & Hove City Council on Thursday 15 December.
“We are shocked to learn of the appalling number of children going missing. One child is too many and, if they were British, it would cause serious alarm and concern. 70 children going missing in this City of Sanctuary is a scandal.
Brighton & Hove City Council has duties under the Children Act 1989 and 2004 to safeguard and promote the welfare of all children in need. It needs to do more to discharge that duty for unaccompanied asylum seeking children. An investigation is needed urgently into what has gone wrong , the complex reasons behind young people absconding and how they can be addressed. We are ready to support that.
But the fundamental problem is that hotels are no place for lone children. Only local authorities can be “corporate parents”. The Home Office must find a way to put children directly into Councils’ care as soon as they arrive in the country and not place them in limbo in hotels where they are vulnerable to the traffickers who prey on them.
Asylum hotels are no place for any child. Some children in Brighton & Hove have been living in an hotel funded by the Home Office for more than a year. We hear from doctors and teachers, as well as their parents, that they are simply not thriving: their physical and mental health is suffering. It is vital that the Home Office speed up its asylum decisions, clear the backlog and stop warehousing people in hotels.”
* We are not linking to that report as it names the three hotels used by the Home Office in Brighton & Hove. This irresponsible journalism puts the residents at unnecessary risk from traffickers and others who might wish them harm.
This statement is supported by a network of groups that support refugees and migrants in Brighton & Hove, including:
Best Foot Music
Brighton & Hove Stand Up To Racism
Brighton Quakers Sanctuary Group
Care for Our City
Cornerstone Community Centre (Hove)
Migrant English Project
Network of International Women
Sanctuary on Sea
Sussex Interpreting Services
Thousand for £1,000
Voices in Exile