Home Office investigating claims asylum-seeking children ‘kidnapped’ from hotel

The Home Office is investigating reports that dozens of asylum-seeking children have been kidnapped by gangs from a hotel run by the department, a minister has said.

Conservative frontbencher Lord Murray of Blidworth said the Home Office “doesn’t know of any cases of kidnap” and he understood “nothing like that” has been reported to it.

But the Home Office minister confirmed the reports are “subject of an investigation”.

An Observer investigation cited child protection sources and a whistleblower working for a Home Office contractor as describing how youngsters were abducted off the street outside the Brighton hotel and bundled into cars.

Lord Murray also gave wider figures in which he confirmed that 200 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children remain missing after initially being accommodated in hotels since July 2021, adding 88% (176) are Albanian nationals.

Speaking during an urgent question session, Labour’s home affairs spokesman Lord Coaker said: “We’re all horrified about what we’ve heard and read about these cases of children going missing – and I will use the term kidnapped – from some of these homes.

“Is it true that the Home Office was warned months ago about these problems? Is it true that the Home Office ignored those warnings and failed to act, because if it is it’s a failure of the state to act as a parent.

“And with Home Office sources denying these children have been kidnapped, can the minister at least confirm that the department accepts legal responsibility for their safety now even if they didn’t in the past?”

A boat carrying people thought to be migrants is brought in to Dover, Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)
A boat carrying people thought to be migrants is brought in to Dover, Kent (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Lord Murray replied: “Certainly the department doesn’t know of any cases of kidnap.

“The reports in the media over the weekend are, of course, the subject of investigation within the Home Office – but at the moment nothing like that has been reported to us, to my knowledge.”

Earlier, Lord Murray told peers: “The Department for Education collects data annually on the number of all looked after children in England, including those who are missing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

“We, the Home Office, have no power to detain unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in these hotels, and we do know that some of them go missing.

“Many of those who have gone missing are subsequently traced and located, as I’ve already said.

“The numbers are as follows: over 4,600 children have been accommodated in hotels since they were opened in July 2021.

“Some 440 missing episodes, that’s the term, an episode, used as some children have gone missing and then been located and subsequently gone missing a second time or more often.

“All of those 440 have been male save for four who have been female; 200 of the children remain missing and only one of these is female.

“Of the 200 that remain missing, 88% are Albanian nationals.

“And of the 200 missing, 13 are under the age of 16.”