Concerns over missing children prompt council to request formal review
The latest revelations about refugee children missing from a hotel in Hove have prompted the council to call for an independent safeguarding review.
Brighton and Hove City Council has asked the independent scrutineer of the Brighton and Hove Children’s Safeguarding Partnership to conduct the review.
The scandal of the missing children was raised in Parliament this week after claims that criminal gangs were trafficking some of the children were published in The Observer last weekend.
Some 136 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children have gone missing since being put up in Hove by the Home Office – and 76 are still missing.
The council said that it had asked for the review “to help respond to concerns raised by the council in relation to the welfare of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children placed by the Home Office in the city”.
The council added: “The Home Office started placing children in a hotel in the city in July 2021 without consultation with the council.
“The residents are boys aged 16 and 17 and more than 1,600 children have moved through the hotel and transferred to local authorities across the country through the National Transfer Scheme.”
Council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty and deputy leader Hannah Allbrooke have written to the Home Office minister Robert Jenrick who has responsibility for immigration.
In the letter they said: “We have today requested that the independent scrutineer of the Brighton and Hove Children’s Safeguarding Partnership conducts a review into the multi-agency response to safeguarding issues in the hotel.
“We fully expect that the Home Office will make its officials available to be part of this review.”
They repeated concerns that the council has continually raised with the government about the Home Office’s use of hotels throughout the country to accommodate asylum-seeking children.
They also said: “We wish to restate our request made first in July 2021 and discuss how the Home Office will immediately end the unacceptable use of hotel accommodation for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and indeed other refugees, in Brighton and Hove and the rest of the country.”
The council said that it had worked with the Home Office, Sussex Police, NHS Sussex and other statutory agencies and local organisations to try to ensure children were safe and that their welfare was cared for while they were temporarily living here.
The council also said that it took its safeguarding responsibilities extremely seriously. When a child was reported missing, the council said that it worked with the police and Home Office in every case to try to trace the missing child.
Earlier this week, Sussex Police said: “Sussex Police has a dedicated unit within its missing persons team focused solely on locating missing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
“Each investigation is conducted impartially, without prejudice, and with the same level of scrutiny and determination as any other missing person report.
“Since the Home Office began housing asylum-seekers in hotels in Brighton and Hove in July 2021, 137 unaccompanied children have been reported missing. Of these, 60 have been located and 76 remain under investigation. One has been transferred to a neighbouring force.
“When people go missing, our primary role is to investigate the circumstances, including assessing if they are vulnerable or could have been a victim of crime.
“Once a person is located, where criminality is associated with either the initial disappearance or their subsequent harbouring, Sussex Police will take action as appropriate.
“We continue to work with the Home Office to help put prevention measures in place, including multi-agency safeguarding meetings, to ensure that when people are reported missing we have the best opportunity to locate them.”
The council said that anyone who was worried about the welfare or safety of any child in Brighton and Hove should phone 01273 290400 or fill in a confidential online form at https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/child-protection or email FrontDoorforFamilies@brighton-hove.gov.uk.
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