‘Children going missing was predictable and predicted’ – councillor slams Home Office

The deputy leader of a council has said that child asylum seekers going missing from city hotels was “predictable and predicted”. 

According to the Observer, around 600 unaccompanied children have stayed at a hotel in Hove over the last 18 months, with 136 reported missing. 

The newspaper claims that about 79 of these remain unaccounted for.

Councillor Hannah Allbrooke, deputy leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, has said that children going missing was “predictable and predicted”, as the city’s Green councillors have responded to comments from Labour MPs. 

Speaking on the BBC’s The World Tonight yesterday, Cllr Allbrooke said: “The Home Office first started using hotels in Brighton and Hove in July 2021 and they did so without the knowledge or consent of the council.

“They wrote to the council after they had already started placing rhe children in these hotels.”

Cllr Allbrooke said that the council raised its “serious concerns” with the Home Office about the safeguarding risks.

In an interview with the BBC, she said: “The Home Office has been really clear throughout that it is their legal responsibility to look after these children.”

She said that “in reality”, there is one body which has the power to end this situation – the Home Office.

“If the Home Office stopped using hotels to house vulnerable children, they would not go missing.”

Labour councillors, along with Hove MP Peter Kyle and Brighton Kemptown MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle called for an “urgent investigation” into the situation.

A spokesman for Labour said: “As recently as earlier this month, the administration at Brighton and Hove City Council claimed the hotel was not being targeted by serious crime and that children were leaving of their own accord.

“Now, based on corroborated whistleblower testimony, the administration’s claims are demonstrably false.”

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “Local authorities have a statutory duty to protect all children, regardless of where they go missing from.

“In the concerning occasion when a child goes missing, they work closely with other local agencies, including the police, to urgently establish their whereabouts and ensure they are safe.”

Brighton and Hove Green councillors also responded to Labour’s comments. 

Writing on Twitter, a spokesman for the party said: “Labour Councillors have only recently woken up to the situation, evidently seeing there is a local council election on the horizon.

“We want to be clear: the people with the keys to solving this problem are the Tory Government and we once again call on them to solve it.

“Labour is trying to blame Brighton & Hove city council for the dreadful way the Home Office is failing unaccompanied asylum seeker children. 

“However, one single council is not to blame for these failures. These children are under the supposed care of the Home Office and the city council does not have the powers to stop the Home Office using hotels.”

Sussex Police told BBC that since the Home Office began housing asylum seekers in Brghton and Hove hotels in July 2021, 137 unaccompanied children reported missing.

Since then, 60 have been located and 76 remain under investigation.

The force added they have had no reports of children being kidnapped from hotels.

“The first thing Home Office needs to do is reassure communities that the police have the resources to find these children and are doing all they can to find them,” Cllr Allbrooke told the BBC.

“There must be a stop to the use of hotel accommodation going forward so we can prevent more children going missing. They have been saying all along they will end the use of hotel accommodation and that has not yet come forward.”

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “Ending the use of hotels for unaccompanied asylum seeking-children is an absolute priority, and we have robust safeguarding procedures in place to ensure all children in our care are as safe and supported as possible as we seek urgent placements with a local authority.”

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