Prime Minister Rishi Sunak responds to Hove hotel 'child protection scandal'
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called for the use of hotels to house unaccompanied asylum seekers to end after dozens of children went missing from a hotel.
A total of 200 children seeking asylum are missing from hotels across the country, with 76 of them from one hotel in Hove alone.
Some 13 of those missing across the UK are under the age of 16, immigration minister Robert Jenrick revealed earlier this week.
The issue was raised in Parliament during Prime Minister’s Questions, when Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn Tulip Siddiq asked the Prime Minister whether he thought that the UK was a safe haven for vulnerable children, given the numbers of children seeking asylum who have disappeared from hotels operated by the Home Office.
Prime Minister Sunak called for the use of hotels to house unaccompanied asylum seekers to end and reiterated that local authorities have a duty to protect children that go missing.
He said: “The United Kingdom has opened up its hearts and homes to hundreds of thousands of people over the last few years - from Syria, from Afghanistan, from Ukraine, from Hong Kong - and provided refuge and sanctuary to many children in that process, but the reports we have read about are concerning.
“Local authorities have a statutory duty to protect all children, regardless of where they go missing from and, in that situation, they work closely with the local agencies, including the police to establish their whereabouts.
“That’s why it is so important that we end the use of hotels for unaccompanied asylum seekers and reduce pressure on the overall system - that’s what our plans will do.”
His comments come as charities, including the NSPCC, Action for Children and Barnardo’s, demand an independent inquiry be launched into how the children went missing, describing the situation as a “child protection scandal”.
In a letter to the Prime Minister signed by more than 100 organisations, the charities warned that the children were at risk of exploitation.
The letter condemns the government’s “reported failures to protect vulnerable children from harm” and highlights how housing young refugees in hotels was intended to be used only as a short-term emergency option.
Enver Soloman, chief executive of the Refugee Council said: “We know from our work that children who have experienced unimaginable horror and upheaval coming to our country in search of safety are highly traumatised and vulnerable.
“The government has a very clear legal duty to protect them but is failing to do so with the equivalent of several classrooms of children seemingly having disappeared into the clutches of those who will exploit and abuse them.
“This is a child protection scandal that councils, the police and ministers must urgently address to ensure every single separated child matters and is kept safe.”