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Hundreds of asylum-seeking children missing from UK govt. hotels

Migrants are brought into Dover harbor onboard a Border Force vessel, after crossing the English Channel, in Dover, the United Kingdom, December 16, 2021. (Reuters file photo)

Hundreds of asylum-seeking children have gone missing from hotels managed by the British government, the country's immigration minister Robert Jenrick told the parliament on Tuesday, prompting calls for an investigation into the matter.

Jenrick said around 200 children have gone missing since July 2021, although the number could be higher. 

“Out of the 4,600 unaccompanied children that have been accommodated in hotels since July 2021, there have been 440 missing occurrences and 200 children still remain missing,” he told the lawmakers, adding that 13 of them are under 16 and one is a girl. Most of them are from Albania.

The Observer newspaper reported on Sunday that the asylum-seeking children had been abducted by gangs outside their hotel in Brighton, southern England.

A source who works for government contractor Mitie told the newspaper that children disappear on the streets and outside their homes and are never found again. The source said criminal gangs kidnap these children from the street.

Sussex police said in a statement they had not received any reports of children abducted in the vicinity of the hotel but had received reports of two children picked up at a nearby hotel in May 2022.

“The vehicle was stopped on the M25 (motorway) and two men were arrested on suspicion of intent to commit human trafficking. Three young passengers were taken into the care of the Home Office.”

Since January 2021, there have been 440 cases of disappearance where asylum seekers have not returned to their hotels where they are voluntarily staying, Jenrick said.

He added that there is a significant presence of security forces in the hotel along with nurses and social workers.

“Those security guards are there to protect the staff and the minors and to raise any suspicious activity immediately with the local police.”

It is said that 88 percent of cases of disappearance of asylum seekers are related to Albanian nationals.

“When any child goes missing, a multi-agency missing person protocol is mobilized alongside the police and relevant local authority,” Jenrick said. “Many of those who have gone missing are subsequently traced.”

According to government figures, more than 200,000 cases of disappearance from childcare centers across England and Wales are reported every year.

Over the course of the past month, the British government has decided to return refugees who entered the country to Rwanda.

The UN refugee agency has accused Britain of dishonesty. Its lawyer Laura Dubinsky said it “in no way endorses the UK-Rwandan arrangement.”

“UNHCR is not involved in the UK-Rwanda arrangement, despite assertions to the contrary made by the secretary of state,” she told the court.

Dubinsky said the would-be refugees were at risk of "serious, irreparable harm" if sent to Rwanda, and that the UN had “serious concerns about Rwandan capacity.”

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