OPINION

How the Home Office dumped 60 refugee children in Hove

Posted On 29 Jul 2021 at 10:35 pm

Last weekend I got a call saying the Home Office had hired a hotel in Hove and in two hours’ time 60 unaccompanied child refugees were being placed there. Almost no questions I had were answered because the Home Office simply didn’t know the answers – they were in a shambolic panic.

Before I go on, you’ll notice that I don’t mention the hotel’s name in this post and I’d really appreciate it if you don’t mention it in any comments too. I’ve asked journalists not to identify the the location also, to protect the children and local residents from people who seek to exploit situations like this for nefarious or populist purposes.

Firstly, it’s important to understand why this occurred. The government’s reception facility in Kent became full. So also did the “overflow facility”. Despite this being debated in Parliament for a decade and arrival numbers being predicted for months, the Home Office had no plan. Ministers should hang their heads in shame because what I have seen unfold since is really appalling.

In the days that followed their arrival, the Home Office could not confirm to me the legal status of the children, neither could they say who has responsibility for safeguarding, welfare, security or accountability. Having spoken to many people about this in recent days I’ve come to the conclusion that the Home Office has created a vacuum, hoping that our council will just step in so they can walk away.

The Home Office is literally goading our council to clean up a terrible mess of their creation and at the centre of this situation are potentially vulnerable children.

In recent days I’ve been busy trying to play a constructive role in resolving these issues. I’ve spoken numerous times to council officials, local councillors, Home Office officials and local residents. I’ve visited the hotel myself and spoken directly to the Home Office official on site plus the security contractor who runs the hotel’s operational side. I’ve also written to every resident in the street to share all the information I have. That letter will be with residents this evening and tomorrow.

I have two priorities. First is to ensure that the dignity and welfare of the children, all aged 16 or 17, is upheld along with their legal rights. Some of them will have experienced highly traumatic situations in their past and will need care. And all have legal rights which must be maintained until their asylum claim is settled.

Secondly, I’m working hard to ensure that neighbourhood peace and security is maintained and the values our of community are respected in a way I would expect of every visitor to our community.

I have explained these priorities to the Home Office official on site and those responsible for managing the hotel. They cannot be left in doubt about the strength of my feelings on this.

We were not consulted before this happened. I’ve heard that several other local authorities refused but in our case we only found out about it after the deal had been done.

Had we been consulted – had the Home Office acted in a functional competent way – all of these issues would have been resolved before the children arrived. I will be contacting the Home Secretary Priti Patel to express my extreme dismay at her actions in this regard.

Some of the children have already been moved to more appropriate accommodation elsewhere. Several new children have also arrived. Most will only be here for a short time but the Home Office are unable to tell me how long this arrangement will last.

These are difficult and sensitive issues that require planning, good organisational arrangements which include welfare, safeguarding, clear accountability and measures in place to respect the values of host communities. The children and local residents deserve this.

In the coming days I’ll continue to play a constructive role in resolving these outstanding issues. The staff I met on site seem kind and concerned. They too have been let down by those at the very top of the Home Office. I’ll keep residents posted as we as a community do our bit to ensure fairness and dignity in the midst of such a sensitive situation.

Peter Kyle is the Labour MP for Hove.

  1. Linda Jameson Reply

    Why o why do you feel the need to try to claim credit for something you’ve done nothing to sort out and is a direct consequence of your party’s xenophobic approach to immigration – we all remember your racist mugs from 2015. The home office is a disgrace and Labour helped it get that way.

  2. Robin Hislop Reply

    That’s a bit rich Linda. Even if this was the result of Labour government failings – and I’m not sure that’s true, the Conservative government have had a decade to sort it out and have manifestly failed to do so.

  3. NAOMI Reply

    Along with all the blah blah, I’m searching for a sense that B&H should feel honoured to be chosen to give sanctuary to these children. Along with Thousand 4 £1000 we are establishing a name for maintaining ‘there are no ‘illegals”. Thank you, staff in that hotel 🙏

  4. Joseph Mullen Reply

    Has Brighton & Hove Council not being doing similar by placing its homeless in Eastbourne without prior agreement or notice and transferring the duty of care to another council.

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