Hove Town Hall
Hove Town Hall

The Labour Group of Councillors on Brighton & Hove City Council and the Labour MPs for Hove and Brighton Kemptown hope the news of widespread kidnapping and trafficking of children from a run-down Hove ‘hotel’ between July 2021 and the present day will finally result in an investigation and the ending of the practice of housing children in hotels. 136 children have gone missing and 79 remain unaccounted for. According to a recent FOI response, children are being placed in these ‘hotels’ alone for approximately 16 days before being moved to foster placements around the country – if they haven’t been groomed or kidnapped first.

Labour have repeatedly warned the Home Office, local Green administration and council CEO that the existence of a ‘hotel’ housing unaccompanied children seeking asylum is unlawful and would attract serious organised criminals intent on exploitation. As recently as earlier this month the administration at Brighton & Hove City Council claimed the ‘hotel’ was not being targeted by serious crime and that children were leaving of their own accord.

Now, based on corroborated whistle-blower testimony, as published by The Observer, the administration’s claims are demonstrably false.

The Home Office and council leadership are both denying corporate responsibility for these children and as a result of this mutual buck-passing they have jointly overseen industrial-scale child neglect.

The Home Office is moving children into the local authority area wholly outside of the law. The National Transfer Scheme (NTS) was established to ensure children could be swiftly placed in appropriate foster care settings immediately on arrival in the UK, and the Home Secretary’s failure to enforce its mandatory requirements has triggered the creation of what amount to unregistered children’s homes, with no safeguarding in place.

We call for this unlawful transfer process to be ended immediately; for all children currently in ‘hotels’ to be urgently transferred to foster placements through the NTS and for all ‘hotels’ accommodating unaccompanied children to be closed with immediate effect.

Primary legislation requires that local authorities take responsibility for the welfare and safeguarding of all children within their area irrespective of how they arrived there. The city’s leadership has abdicated its statutory responsibilities to the missing children, and we call for the resignation of the Leader and Deputy Leader of the council and for a full inquiry into the role of the Home Office, the council and the police in this safeguarding catastrophe.

Labour in Brighton & Hove support Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary in describing these revelations as “truly appalling and scandalous” and calling on the Government to reveal how many children had disappeared and what was being done to find them.

She went on: “Suella Braverman [the home secretary] 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.”

Brighton & Hove Labour Group, Brighton & Hove City Council

Peter Kyle MP, Hove & Portslade

Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Brighton Kemptown & Peacehaven

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