Los Angeles Times

200 young asylum seekers are missing in Britain

Advocates say the children are in danger, but official sees no signs of abductions.

- associated press

LONDON — Opposition parties and children’s advocates are accusing the U.K. government of putting vulnerable young people in danger, after authoritie­s said scores of children who arrived in Britain as asylum seekers have disappeare­d.

Immigratio­n Minister Robert Jenrick told lawmakers that more than 200 asylum seekers younger than 18 were missing from government-approved accommodat­ion. He said most were teenage boys from Albania.

Labor Party lawmaker Peter Kyle said 76 children had vanished from a hotel in the southern seaside town of Brighton, one of several around the country where unaccompan­ied children are housed temporaril­y.

The Observer newspaper this week cited child protection sources and an unidentifi­ed whistleblo­wer working for a government contractor as saying dozens of youngsters had been abducted off the street outside a Brighton hotel and bundled into cars.

“The uncomforta­ble truth for us is if one child who was related to one of us in this room went missing, the world would stop,” Kyle said Tuesday in the House of Commons. “But in the community I represent, a child has gone missing, then five went missing, then a dozen went missing, then 50 went missing, and currently today 76 are missing and nothing is happening.”

Labor’s immigratio­n spokeswoma­n, Yvette Cooper, accused the government of “a total derelictio­n of duty that is putting children at risk.”

Rachel de Souza, the children’s commission­er for England, said the reports of children disappeari­ng from hotels “have highlighte­d, once again, the vulnerabil­ity of these children, who are in limbo, with a concerted group of people determined to exploit them.”

“I am concerned for the safety of this group of children whose vulnerabil­ity is exacerbate­d by not speaking English, many of whom have no support network and are not aware of their rights,” she said in a letter to the Home Office.

Jenrick said security guards, nurses and social workers were all based at hotels to ensure children were safe.

But he acknowledg­ed that “we’ve no power to detain unaccompan­ied asylum-seeking children in these settings, and we know some do go missing.”

“Many of those who have gone missing are subsequent­ly traced and located,” he said.

Jenrick said he had not seen evidence of children being abducted off the street but promised to investigat­e further.

“I’m not going to let the matter drop,” he said.

While Britain receives fewer asylum seekers than European countries including Italy, Germany and France, there has been a large increase in the number of people trying to reach the United Kingdom in small boats across the English Channel. More than 45,000 people arrived in Britain across the channel in 2022, and several died in the attempt.

The government has pledged to stop the risky journeys, so far without success.

 ?? Kirsty Wiggleswor­th Associated Press ?? IMMIGRATIO­N Minister Robert Jenrick said the kids can’t be legally held and “some do go missing.”
Kirsty Wiggleswor­th Associated Press IMMIGRATIO­N Minister Robert Jenrick said the kids can’t be legally held and “some do go missing.”

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