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‘Shocking’ UK moves refugee children to hotels | Immigration and asylum

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A record number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children arriving in the UK on small boats are being accommodated in four hotels along England’s south coast, a situation the Children’s Society has called “shocking”.

Around 250 unaccompanied children who arrived in small boats would be accommodated in hotels, which Ofsted said was an unacceptable practice.

In September, Interior Ministry officials told the Home Affairs Select Committee that it was accommodating 70 unaccompanied children in hotels.

On November 23, the government announced that a program to disperse this group of children in different local authorities was temporarily made compulsory. But individual councils have two weeks to make representations against this new rule. The London councils are currently caring for 1,500 of these children, or one-third of the total.

Kent County Council officials said they were at full capacity, caring for 363 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children as of 23 November as well as 1,071 people on leave.

Child and refugee charities say their concern for the well-being of young refugees is growing as record numbers of adults and children continue to arrive in the UK in small boats.

Marieke Widmann, Policy and Practice Advisor at the Children’s Society, said: “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.

“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. “

The question of who is legally responsible for these children has been raised by lawyers. Rebecca Ives, lawyer at Wilsons, said: “The Home Secretary is effectively acting as the parent company for these children. The central government has no statutory power to act in this way or to accommodate [unaccompanied asylum-seeking children] in hotels.

“We are concerned that the Home Office’s practice of accommodating unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in hotels removes them from the protections and safeguards afforded them under the Children Act 1989. Some of them will be victims of trafficking and / or torture and therefore particularly vulnerable and at risk.

“It has been stated that these children will only be in hotels for very short periods of time while alternative arrangements are made, but for some children this period lasts for more than a month.”

Bridget Chapman of the Kent Refugee Action Network said: “We were concerned to discover that these unaccompanied asylum-seeking children recently arrived on small boats are being accommodated in hotels on the south coast.

“We have a lot of expertise to support these young people and it is our mission to do so. But the Interior Ministry has not contacted us about this. Children are guarded by security guards. We don’t know if they have enough privacy, if they are supported by trained social workers, or what jurisdiction they fall under.

“Hotels are not suitable places to welcome these children. Who is watching them and how long will they stay in hotels? “

A government spokesperson said: “We are working tirelessly with local authorities to seek permanent places for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children across the UK. Our efforts remain focused on ensuring that every unaccompanied child receives appropriate support and care while we seek a permanent place for them.

“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.”