Thirtyone:eight has signed an open letter jointly coordinated by Children England, ECPAT UK and the Refugee Council, calling for urgent action to protect children in hotels, find missing children, and provide a sound exit strategy from the use of hotels.
The letter, which has been signed by over 100 other charities, highlights the UK Home Office's unlawful practice of placing separated children in hotels, which puts them at huge risk of harm. Over 200 children are still missing on the Home Office's watch and are suspected of being trafficked and exploited.
"We request the end to this practice immediately with a commitment to an end date after which these practices will not be revived and an urgent independent inquiry given these significant matters of public concern following the reported failures to protect vulnerable children from harm," said the open letter.
The latest revelations of children going missing surfaced last weekend, with over 100 children found to have been reported missing from a single Sussex hotel, with 79 who remain missing. The government confirmed that there were 440 occurrences of children having gone missing from hotels, and 200 children have never been found.
"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," the letter states.
Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said: "We know from our work that children who have experienced unimaginable horror and upheaval coming to our country in search of safety are highly traumatised and vulnerable. Government has a very clear legal duty to protect them but is failing to do so with the equivalent of several classrooms of children seemingly having disappeared into the clutches of those who will exploit and abuse them. This is a child protection scandal that councils the police and ministers must urgently address to ensure every single separated child matters and is kept safe.”
Thirtyone:eight supports calls for children to be cared for by local authority children’s social care, according to the law and with all the safeguards that brings, including having OFSTED oversight, and for an urgent independent inquiry.
Joint CEO Justin Humphreys said, "At Thirtyone:eight we stand in solidarity with the over hundred charities that have signed this open letter to the government. The continued use of hotels to house separated children is not only unlawful, but it is also putting these vulnerable children at huge risk of harm. The fact that over 200 children have gone missing from these hotels is a preventable tragedy and we call on the Government to take urgent action to protect these children, find those who are missing and provide a sound exit strategy from the inappropriate use of hotels. We urge the Government to end this practice immediately and commit to an independent inquiry to address these significant matters of public concern, working with the sector to find workable solutions."