A children’s charity has issued a warning to the UK government about the “incredible risk” facing unaccompanied migrant children staying in hotels after their numbers tripled in just two months.
Around 250 young people are said to be housed in four temporary accommodation sites on England’s south coast, more than three times the figure reported by the Home Office in September.
The Children’s Society called the situation “shocking,” while Ofsted, an agency responsible for inspecting children’s educational institutions and youth care homes, said it was simply unacceptable.
This year, records were broken for the number of migrants illegally crossing the Channel in small boats from France to land on British shores. Warmer-than-usual weather led to a steady stream of rubber dinghies through busy shipping lanes as winter approached.
Marieke Widmann, policy and practice advisor at the Children’s Society, said the hundreds of children who have made the perilous journey without a parent or guardian need a safe living space to start their new lives.
She warned that the government must get the situation under control after The Guardian reported that the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the care of the authorities had risen to 250.
“These are vulnerable children and young people who have often fled war and persecution and can be frightened and upset after an incredibly traumatic journey,” Ms. Widmann said.
“It is essential that they get the help, support and safety they need when they arrive here on their own, including access to appropriate accommodation. Moving unaccompanied children to hotels with limited care and supervision is shocking and puts these already vulnerable children at incredible risk. We know that several children have already disappeared.
“The Home Office has a duty to protect all children and promote their well-being. It must ensure that these children receive appropriate care and support so that they feel safe and can recover from the terrible trauma they have suffered. “
In September, the Interior Ministry said 70 unaccompanied minors were staying in hotels, classified as “transitional accommodation,” while waiting to be taken to long-term facilities.
Tricia Hayes, the Home Office’s second permanent secretary, said protection officers were on hand to care for the children. However, she did not confirm whether each employee was qualified to care for vulnerable unaccompanied migrant children, many of whom may not speak English.
Kent Refugee Action Network, a non-profit organization that provides assistance to unaccompanied migrant children, said it was “concerned” about the number of children staying in hotels.
A UK government official said officials “were working tirelessly” to liaise with local councils to find permanent homes for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
“Our efforts remain focused on ensuring that every unaccompanied child receives appropriate support and care while we seek a permanent place for them,” added the representative.
“We are determined to end the use of hotels as soon as possible and our Nationality and Borders Bill will fix the failing asylum system. “
The bill, which is currently before parliament, will criminalize asylum seekers who arrive in the UK via illegal routes, giving them only temporary status under which they have limited rights.
The bill is part of the Conservative government’s plan to stamp out illegal immigration and deter migrants from paying smugglers to secure their passage to Britain.
Last week, around 27 migrants drowned as they attempted to cross the Channel on an inflatable dinghy from France, prompting the UK and France to launch a coordinated effort to stop smugglers from operate in camps in northern France.
Updated: November 29, 2021, 13:18