The U.K. government says more than 200 child asylum-seekers are missing : NPR

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Robert Jenrick, the British Minister of State for immigration, arrives for a Cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London on Tuesday.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

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Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Robert Jenrick, the British Minister of State for immigration, arrives for a Cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London on Tuesday.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

LONDON — Opposition parties and children’s advocates accused the UK government on Tuesday of putting vulnerable young people at risk, after authorities said dozens of children who arrived in the country had gone missing. – Great Britain as asylum seekers.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick told lawmakers that more than 200 children and teenagers under the age of 18 were missing government-approved housing. He said many were teenage boys from Albania.

Labor Party lawmaker Peter Kyle said 76 children had gone missing from a hotel in the south coast town of Brighton, one of several around the country where unaccompanied children are temporarily housed.

The Observer a newspaper this week cited child protection sources and an unidentified whistleblower working for a government contractor as saying dozens of youngsters had been abducted on the street outside a Brighton hotel and herded into cars.

“The uncomfortable truth for us is that if one child who was related to one of us in this room went missing, the world would stop,” said Kyle in the House of Commons. “But in the community I represent a child lost, then five lost, then a dozen lost, then 50 lost and currently today 76 are missing and nothing is happening.”

Labour’s immigration spokeswoman, Yvette Cooper, accused the government of “total dereliction of duty which is putting children at risk.”

Rachel de Souza, the children’s commissioner for England, said that the reports of children who have disappeared from hotels “have highlighted, once again, the vulnerability of these children, who are in the limbo, with an agreed group of people determined to exploit them”.

“I am concerned for the safety of this group of children whose vulnerability is aggravated by not speaking English, many of whom do not have a support network and are not aware of their rights,” she said in letter to the Home Office.

Jenrick said security guards, nurses and social workers were all based at the hotels to ensure the children were safe.

But he acknowledged that “we have no power to hold unaccompanied children seeking asylum in these environments and we know that some are lost.”

“Many of those who disappeared are subsequently traced and located,” he said.

Jenrick said he did not see evidence of kidnapped children on the street but promised to investigate further.

“I’m not going to let the matter drop,” he said.

While Britain welcomes fewer asylum seekers than European countries including Italy, Germany and France, there has been a large increase in the number of people trying to reach the UK in small boats across the English Channel. More than 45,000 people arrived in Britain across the Channel in 2022, and several died in the attempt.

The government has promised to stop the risky journeys, so far without success.

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