Ministers have been accused of being a dereliction of duty over their failure to track down 76 asylum-seeking children who have disappeared from a Brighton hotel managed by the Home Office.
The accusation came during a debate on Tuesday after an Observer investigation cited child protection sources and a whistleblower working for a Home Office contractor said that children had been abducted from the street outside the Brighton hotel and bundled into cars.
Caroline Lucas, the local Green MP, asked a question about what steps the government has taken to track down the missing children.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said more than 4,600 asylum-seeking children had been accommodated in six hotels since July 2021, and that 440 of them had gone missing. The Home Office has placed thousands of children in hotels, but it is not clear who is the parent of the children in care, including asylum-seeking children placed in foster care.
Although the Home Office runs these hotels and has placed nurses, social workers and security guards there, there is no legal clarity on who is the corporate parent for the children if they go missing or if anything happens to them.
Tim Loughton, the Conservative MP, described it as a grey area between the Home Office and local authority responsibility.
During the debate, Jenrick didn't give a date for when the Home Office would end the use of these hotels for children seeking asylum.
When asked if the Home Office would not take on a corporate parent responsibility for children in hotels, Jenrick stated that this proposal was under consideration and that a decision would be made in due course. MPs from Brighton and Hove expressed concerns about vulnerable children being dumped by the Home Office in hotels in the area. The immigration minister defended the security presence at the Brighton hotel run by his department, but said he had asked those running it and council officials to respond to the allegations of children being abducted outside the hotel.
In his Hove constituency, a hotel was given only a couple of hours notice that unaccompanied children were going to be placed there, according to Labour MP Peter Kyle. He said that some of the children were very vulnerable, both emotionally and emotionally, to being coerced into crime if they left the premises.
Will the Home Office be able to immediately end the contract with this hotel and move the children out of safer accommodation, according to Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary. How do I find a team to investigate the link between organised crime trafficking and children in hotels?
We need urgent action to crack down on these gangs because this is a total dereliction of duty and to keep children and young people safe. The refugee council chief executive, Enver Solomon, said: These children are being left in legal limbo due to the government failing to its statutory duty to ensure they are given a corporate parent like any other child in the care system. It means that they are left at greater risk of being overlooked or neglected.