Speed Reads

Where are they?

Hundreds of child asylum seekers have gone missing, UK government admits

British Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick admitted to parliament on Tuesday that hundreds of children seeking asylum have gone missing from government-run hotels, as opposing lawmakers and refugee advocates called for an investigation, CNN reports. 

"Out of the 4,600 unaccompanied children that have been accommodated in hotels since July 2021, there have been 440 missing occurrences and 200 children still remain missing," Jenrick told officials. About 13 of the 200 missing minors are under 16 years old, and only one is female, per government data. The majority of the missing children are teenage boys from Albania, per CNN. 

Jenrick said an uptick in migrants crossing in the United Kingdom through the English Channel left the government with "no alternative" to using "specialist hotels" to house minor asylum seekers as of July 2021. Jenrick claimed security guards, nurses, and social workers were all stationed at the hotels to ensure the children's safety while acknowledging that "we've no power to detain unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in these settings and we know some do go missing," per The Associated Press

According to AP, the British newspaper The Observer first reported the missing children, citing sources from child protection agencies and an anonymous whistleblower working for a government contractor. Their sources claim dozens of children were abducted by "gangs" outside a Brighton hotel run by the U.K. Home Office. The Home Office has denied those allegations. "The wellbeing of children in our care is an absolute priority," a spokesperson told CNN. 

In her response to parliament, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper pointed to human traffickers as the source of the issue, saying, "children are literally being picked up from outside the building, disappearing and not being found. They are being taken from the street by traffickers."