Many constituents have contacted me about missing migrant children.

On Tuesday (24 January 2023), the Government was asked an Urgent Question about what steps it is taking to find missing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and to keep them safe.

On Monday, a Home Office Minister admitted that 200 asylum-seeking children who had been placed in hotels have gone missing. They include at least 13 children under the age of 16. The admission came after The Observer reported that a whistleblower from a Home Office-procured hotel in Brighton alleged that some children had been abducted off the street and bundled into cars.

Responding to the Urgent Question on Tuesday, the Immigration Minister said the Government takes its safeguarding responsibilities seriously but that authorities had no power to detain unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. The Minister outlined current procedures including welfare interviews of all children, which includes questions designed to identify potential indicators of trafficking or safeguarding risks.

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.

The Home Office must urgently clarify who is legally responsible for these children: local authorities or the Home Office? I believe the Home Office must immediately end its contract with the hotel in question and move the children out 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. Children are being put at risk. We need urgent and serious action to crack down on the criminal gangs, and to keep children and young people safe.

Hilary Benn MP – Leeds Central

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