Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children need to be safe

Last Tuesday Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion raised a very significant urgent call to the Government which can be obtained from here. The initial statement she made was “(Urgent Question): To ask the Home Secretary if she will make a statement on what steps she is taking to find missing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and to keep them safe.” and the Minister who responded was Robert Jenrick who is the Minister for Immigration. The initial response from Jenrick was as follows

The rise in small boat crossings has placed a severe strain on the asylum accommodation system. We have had no alternative but to temporarily use specialist hotels to give some unaccompanied minors a roof over their heads while local authority accommodation is found. We take our safeguarding responsibilities extremely seriously and we have procedures in place to ensure all children are accommodated as safely as possible while in those hotels. This work is led on site by personnel providing 24/7 supervision, with support from teams of social workers and nurses. Staff, including contractors, receive briefings and guidance on how to safeguard minors, while all children receive a welfare interview, which includes questions designed to identify potential indicators of trafficking or safeguarding risks. The movements of under-18s in and out of hotels are monitored and recorded, and they are accompanied by social workers when attending organised activities.

A few seconds later he then ended his piece with these words

I fully understand the interest of Caroline Lucas, and indeed the whole House, in this issue and I am grateful for the opportunity to address it. I assure the House that safeguarding concerns are, and will remain, a priority for me and for my Department as we deliver the broader reforms that are so desperately needed to ensure we have a fair and effective asylum system that works in the interests of the British people.

Lucas then responds initially with

This is horrific. Vulnerable children are being dumped by the Home Office, scores of them are going missing, and I can tell the Minister that there is nothing “specialist” about these hotels. We are not asking him to detain children; we are asking the Home Office to apply some basic safeguarding so that we can keep them safe.

She then adds these words as part of her second statement

The Minister will talk of new money being given to local authorities, but where will they get the foster care capacity, which he knows is in seriously short supply? Brighton and Hove City Council has been raising concerns about the dangerous practice of using these hotels for 18 months, and as Peter Kyle has made clear on many occasions—I pay credit to him for his tireless work on this—it was entirely foreseeable that children were at risk of being snatched, abducted and coerced by criminals.

Jenrick responds with these words at the start of his comment

If the hon. Lady has not visited the hotel in her constituency, or indeed in her neighbouring constituency, I would be happy to organise that. I spoke with the chief executive and director of children’s services of Brighton and Hove City Council yesterday to ask for their reflections on the relationship with the Home Office and the management of the hotel. We have a good relationship with that council and I want to ensure that that continues.

The other local MPs who have responded in this debate are Peter Kyle, Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Tim Loughton. Inevitably there were a number of other MPs involved but the focus on Sussex and indeed on Brighton and Hove is very significant.

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
This entry was posted in Brighton & Hove, Community Safety, Parliament and Democracy, Youth Issues and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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