AN investigation has revealed that dozens of asylum seekers have been kidnapped by gangs from a Brighton hotel run by the Home Office in what is apparently a pattern being repeated along the south coast of England.

According to a report in The Observer, a whistleblower, who works for Home Office contractor Mitie, and child protection sources described children being abducted off the street outside the hotel and put into cars.

The source said: “Children are literally being picked up from outside the building, disappearing and not being found. They’re being taken from the street by traffickers.”

The newspaper also reports that the Home Office was repeatedly warned by police that vulnerable occupants – asylum-seeking children who have arrived in the UK with no parents or carers – would be targeted by criminal networks.

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Figures show that around 600 unaccompanied children have passed through the Sussex hotel in the past 18 months, with 136 reported missing.

More than half of these – 79 – remain unaccounted for.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper described the news as “truly appalling and scandalous”, and called on the UK Government to reveal how many children had disappeared and to outline what plans were in place to find them.

Cooper said: “Suella Braverman has failed to act on the repeated warnings she has been given about totally inadequate safeguards for children in their care.

“It is a total dereliction of duty for the Home Office to so badly fail to protect child safety or crack down on the dangerous gangs putting them in terrible risk.
“Ministers must urgently put new protection arrangements in place.”

The Mitie whistleblower also described witnessing children being in effect trafficked from a similar hotel run by the Home Office in Kent, estimating that 10% of its children disappear every week.

The child protection source added that some of those missing from the Brighton hotel may have been trafficked as far away as Manchester and Scotland.

One case is currently under investigation by the Metropolitan police in London.

Data released in October last year showed 222 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children were missing from hotels being run by the Home Office.

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Ministers admitted they had no idea of their whereabouts.

It also emerged that now new guidance for police has been issued to track down missing asylum-seeking children, with sources telling the newspaper that it remains in “development”.

New data released under the Freedom of Information Act also showed that newly arrived unaccompanied children spend on average 16.5 days in Home Office hotels before being placed in council care around the country.

When The Observer asked Brighton and Hove City Council, which normally cares for child asylum seekers when they first arrive in the UK, it referred queries on criminals targeting children to the police.

Sussex police said queries on criminals targeting the children should be sent to the Home Office.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “Local authorities have a statutory duty to protect all children, regardless of where they go missing from.

“In the concerning occasion when a child goes missing, they work closely with other local agencies, including the police, to urgently establish their whereabouts and ensure they are safe.

“We have robust safeguarding procedures in place to ensure all children in our care as safe and supported as possible as we seek urgent placements with a local authority.”

Brighton and Hove City council added: “We have been actively involved when any child is reported missing and have worked with the police and other agencies to try to trace them.”

Catherine Hankinson, National Police Chiefs’ council lead for missing persons, said regular multi-agency briefings by police reviewed the response to every missing migrant child who had not been located.