Government minister admits it’s ‘very hard’ to protect children in hotels

Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt said that it was “very hard” to protect vulnerable asylum-seekers in hotels and the government had to address the issue “swiftly”.

The Commons Leader acknowledged that there had been stories of gangmasters turning up at migrants’ hotels and “taking people away”, as she answered questions in Parliament today (Thursday 26 January).

She said that it was, for “very obvious reasons, very hard to protect people in that kind of environment”, adding: “So we have to address this.”

Her comments followed the admission by Home Office minister Robert Jenrick on Tuesday that 200 asylum-seeking children who were placed in hotels run by the Home Office were missing.

The disclosure was made after The Observer reported that a whistleblower from a Hove hotel, run by the Home Office, had claimed that some children had been abducted off the street outside the hotel and bundled into cars.

Mr Jenrick said that he had “not been presented with evidence that that has happened” but would continue to investigate.

The Labour MP for Hove, Peter Kyle, said on Tuesday that Sussex Police had made arrests on suspicion of child trafficking – and Sussex Police confirmed this.

Ms Mordaunt’s comments came in response to the SNP’s Commons leader, Deidre Brock, who condemned “a new low in dehumanising language” after comments allegedly made by former Tory minister Jonathan Gullis at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday.

She said: “A member on the benches opposite, who is clearly bent on establishing himself as some kind of Conservative Party pound shop (Nigel) Farage, reportedly shouted something really loathsome yesterday at PMQs about the 200 asylum-seeking children that are allegedly missing.

“It was so despicable I won’t repeat it but its content must be known to her through the outrage on social media.

“Will she join me in condemning his remarks, which by victim blaming potentially 200 missing vulnerable children, marks a new low in dehumanising language towards asylum seekers?”

Mr Kyle said on Twitter that Mr Gullis shouted “well they shouldn’t have come here illegally” while the welfare of the missing children was being discussed in the Commons on Wednesday.

Responding to Ms Brock at business questions, Ms Mordaunt said: “One of the very sad things about the system at the moment – and we recognise that it is a broken system that needs reform and we are bringing legislation forward to tackle that – but keeping people in hotels for long periods of time increases their vulnerability.

“We’ve had stories of gangmasters turning up at hotels that they know asylum-seekers are staying at, taking people away.

“It is for very obvious reasons very hard to protect people in that kind of environment. So we have to address this.

“And I do hope that when we do bring forward legislation to tackle this issue, to get the system to work more effectively, make it fairer for both the UK taxpayer but also for those very vulnerable people who are being trafficked, we will have support from all sides of this house.

“This is a serious matter, people need protecting and we must do so swiftly.”

Asked about Ms Brock’s claims, Mr Gullis told the PA news agency: “I fully support the Prime Minister in stopping migrants claiming asylum who have entered the UK illegally, deporting them to safe third countries like Rwanda instead and smashing apart the vile smuggling gangs.”

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