Halving the number of asylum-seeker children held in UK hotels is not enough, say charities

Halving the number of asylum-seeker children held in UK hotels is not enough, say charities

Halving the number of asylum-seeker children held in UK hotels is not enough, say charities

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Charities have accused ministers of doing too little, too late after the time unaccompanied asylum-seeking children can be kept in hotels was halved.

Local authorities have been given five working days instead of 10 to move them from hotels to care after evidence that children as young as 11 seeking asylum in the UK were at risk of exploitation while being held in temporary accommodation.

Enver Solomon, executive director of the Refugee Council, said the move was an “unacceptable, serious failure” that leaves children outside the legal framework.

“As long as children are in hotels and deprived of the care that comes with having a corporate parent, they remain in a terrible situation where it is unclear who is legally responsible for them,” he said.

“The agonizing uncertainty surrounding a stay in unsuitable temporary hotel accommodation is very harmful for children who have fled war and violence.”

Daniel Sohege of the charity Love146, which supports children exploited by human trafficking, said: “Even before today’s announcement … we saw children staying in hotels for months on end. I’m not sure this announcement will make much of a difference. We welcome any move to improve things for children, but this situation has gone on for far too long.”

The Ministry of the Interior increased the use of hotels as temporary accommodation for asylum seekers at the start of the Covid pandemic, and again for the influx of refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine.

As of the end of June, 355 unaccompanied child asylum seekers between the ages of 11 and 18 were kept in hotels.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by the charity Every Child Protected Against Trafficking revealed that 45 unaccompanied child asylum seekers went missing from hotels between June last year and the end of March.

The government claims to spend more than £5 million a day accommodating asylum seekers and Afghan refugees in hotels, including children.

Wednesday’s announcement means that once a referral is made under the National Transfer Scheme, councils will have five working days instead of 10 to transfer an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child from hotel accommodation into their care.

Related: Home Office contractor gives children hotel food containing worms

The government claims councils will receive new funding for each child of £2,000 every month for the first three months to help them deliver the changes to the scheme – but only if they move an unaccompanied child asylum seeker from a hotel to a placement within five working days.

Kevin Foster, an immigration minister, said: “The Government cannot deal with the impact of the increase in dangerous and illegal small boat crossings alone, which is why I want the support of councils to help us reduce the cost of hotels and move unaccompanied asylum quickly. – looking for children so that they get the care they need.

“Any council that moves a child from a hotel into their care under the new scheme will receive support funding of £6,000 per child for the first three months to give them the best possible start.”

A report by the UN refugee agency and the British Red Cross warned that delays in asylum decisions lead people to “take up offers of work in unsafe and exploitative conditions”.

It found evidence that “visible, large-scale accommodation in hostels, hotels and multi-person houses are targeted by traffickers”.

Another report by the Independent Chief Inspector for Borders and Immigration said that failures in the processing of people arriving by small boats meant that children and victims of human trafficking were not always correctly identified.

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