Dozens of pairs of shoes arranged in an arc along the ground. Behind them a person speaks into a microphone.

Demo for missing children seeking asylum

Two hundred pairs of shoes, one for every child seeking asylum gone missing without trace from government care, formed the centrepiece of a rally organised by Bristol Defend the Asylum Seekers Campaign (BDASC).

Those 200 were among the 4,600 children separated from a carer who have sought refuge in the UK since July 2021 and been housed in government-run hotels. In total, there have been 440 reported incidents of children going missing from hotels, 240 of whom were subsequently found. 

BDASC organised the rally and the shoe action on Saturday, February 25, to condemn the government over the missing children. 

Jo Benefield, of BDASC, said; ‘When a few thousand children come over here, traumatised, separated from their parents and looking for a place of safety, this government should be providing it for them because there is no shortage of money.’

She continued: ‘These are children separated from their parents. They’ve come to this country looking for safety and they’ve been abandoned by this government.’

‘This government was supposed to be looking after those children and they didn’t. They should close those hotels down, they should find the missing children.’

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Why are unaccompanied children being put in hotels?

The Home Office runs six hostels for unaccompanied child asylum seekers. 

In January, Home Office minister Lord Murray admitted the figures for missing children, saying ‘The Home Office have no power to detain unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in these hotels and we do know that some of them go missing. Many of them that go missing are subsequently traced.’

Following the Home Office admission, 111 major refugee and children’s charities wrote to Home Secretary Suella Braverman, Robert Jenrick, Minister for Immigration, and Gillian Keegan, Secretary of State for Education.  

In the letter, the charities – including Every Child Protected Against Trafficking, the Refugee Council, the NSPCC and Barnardo’s  express ‘grave concern’ over the missing children and call for an immediate end to the practise of housing unaccompanied children in hotels and hostels. 

They write: ‘There is no legal basis for placing children in Home Office hotel accommodation and almost two years into the operation of the scheme which is both unlawful and harmful, it is no longer possible to justify the use of hotels as being ‘temporary’. It is a significant departure from the Children Act 1989 and established standards.’

What are the facts about refugees?

Using Home Office figures for 2022, the Refugee Council show that of the 45,746 people who came to the UK across the Channel, 25,119 (60%) were granted refugee status. Four in ten of those who came on small boats were from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Eritrea and Sudan, countries with asylum grant rates of over 80%. 

The figures show further that official safe routes to asylum, like resettlement schemes and family reunions, are down 75% and 36% respectively from pre-Covid levels, which the Refugee Council say is evidence that asylum seekers have no choice but to cross the channel in small boats.

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