A Christian public policy charity has urged the government to prioritise safeguarding for asylum-seeking children.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick was called to parliament on Tuesday by a member of the Green Party to explain media reports of missing children.
Jenrick said 13 of the 200 missing children were under 16 years old and one was female, with around 88 per cent of all those missing coming from Albania. He said the government was fulfilling its obligations to protect the children.
"The movements of under-18s in and out of hotels are monitored and reported and they're accompanied by social workers when attending organised activities," Jenrick told parliament.
"We have no power to detain unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in these settings."
In response to Jenrick, Green Party lawmaker Caroline Lucas said the children were at risk of being snatched, abducted and coerced by criminals.
"This is horrific," Lucas said. "Vulnerable children are being dumped by the Home Office. Scores of them are going missing ... we are asking the Home Office to apply some basic safeguarding so we can keep them safe."
Rebecca Stevenson, trafficking policy expert at Christian public policy charity CARE told Premier Christian News she agrees that more needs to be done. She insisted that the Home Office has a duty to the “vulnerable young people”.
“It’s undeniably a difficult situation, so it's really hard to say kind of what that reform would look like,” she admitted.
“And I know the government are arguing they're only being housed in hotels because it's an overflow situation, but unfortunately, processing these claims is just simply taking too long. It's resulting in this kind of massive overflow, which means that these young people are being detained in hotels. Whilst there certainly is support there, it's not 24 hour support.
“I think the difficulty, as well, is when these traffickers come along, they're sort of offering them a better life, you know, [they say] ‘come with us, and you'll make money and you'll get to do X, Y, and Z’. And obviously that's a lie, but they're creating a narrative that is much more exciting for these young people than them staying in those hotels”.
The number of people arriving in England across the Channel has more than doubled in the last two years, with government figures showing Albanians account for the highest number of people arriving by this route.
Last year ministers came under pressure over poor living conditions and overcrowding at a migrant holding facility, and faced threats of legal action from rights groups and a public sector workers' union. The site was later cleared of migrants.
Stevenson called for prayers of “support” and “resilience” for the Home Office and migrant charities as they try to address the issue of missing children.
“Especially pray for the people in these situations,” she added. “it must be awful to leave your home at a young age and find yourself in this, especially people who end up being trafficked.”
Listen to Premier’s interview with Rebecca Stevenson here: