Labour has called for an emergency council meeting after revelations about dozens of children going missing from Hove after seeking asylum in Britain.
Councillors want the hotel being used by the Home Office to house vulnerable children to be closed, for the children to be taken into care and for an independent inquiry into the role of the council “in this child safeguarding catastrophe”.
The party said: “The Labour group has today written to the Brighton and Hove City Council chief executive requesting an emergency meeting of the full council be held within a week.”
The purpose, it said, was “to discuss legal avenues available to the council to make urgent interventions to get vulnerable children out of hotels and into care”.
Labour wants the council to agree “proposals to seek urgent legal advice in order to close the hotel in Hove to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and ensure these children are put into care placements under the National Transfer Scheme”.
The party said: “Under Labour’s plans, there would also be an independent inquiry held to investigate the role of Brighton and Hove City Council in the safeguarding catastrophe of vulnerable children being kidnapped and trafficked.”
Labour group co-leaders Councillor John Allcock and Councillor Carmen Appich said: “We’ve written to the council chief executive requesting an urgent extraordinary council meeting to discuss Labour’s plans to immediately safeguard these very vulnerable children.
“We want children out of this hotel and into care placements immediately. We want the missing children found and we want a review into how any of this scandalous crisis was allowed to happen despite our repeated warnings.
“This meeting must take place as soon as possible so that swift action can be taken to safeguard unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from any further exploitation, kidnap and trafficking.”
Labour councillor Bella Sankey said: “Our call for an immediate emergency full council meeting is borne of frustration at the refusal of the Green administration to take effective action to safeguard children in Brighton and Hove.
“We want external legal advice on how to get the hotel in Hove closed down and an independent inquiry into the role of the administration in this child safeguarding catastrophe.
“There is no excuse for delay. Nothing is more important than the safety of unaccompanied children in Brighton and Hove, so we expect this meeting to go ahead in a matter of days.”
Councillor Sankey plans to propose a motion at the extraordinary meeting.
It would ask the council to note
- that at least 136 children, equivalent to five classrooms, have gone missing from Brighton and Hove since July 2021
- that 76 of these children remain unaccounted for
- that a whistleblower and child protection sources have come forward with evidence that serious organised crime have targeted these children and kidnapped them from the hotel where they have been abandoned for trafficking and exploitation
- that this catastrophic failure in child safeguarding shames our great city and undermines our status as a City of Sanctuary
The motion would ask the council
- that the assistant director of legal and democratic services immediately instructs external expert legal counsel on the legal options available to Brighton and Hove City Council to challenge and ultimately
1) close down the hotel to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children immediately
2) prevent the Home Secretary moving any more unaccompanied children into the city outside of the law
3) achieve the immediate placement of children accommodated at the hotel into local authority care placements across the country through the statutory National Transfer Scheme
- that the assistant director of legal and democratic services makes this legal advice available, in confidence, to all group leaders within a week of this meeting taking place at the latest
- that the chief executive orders an independent inquiry into the role of Brighton and Hove City Council in the disappearances of these children, including all safeguarding acts and omissions