On January 25, I was granted a Prime Minster’s Question, which I used to ask Rishi Sunak about the over 200 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who were missing from Home Office-run hotels.

Earlier this month, I made an intervention in Parliament to point out that that the Government’s response to one of my Parliamentary Questions some months later stated that 186 of those children were still missing. I found it utterly heart-breaking that some of the most vulnerable children in the country were unaccounted for months after and potentially exposed to danger months after me raising it.

At an event this month organised by Nisa-Nashim, a charity which brings together Muslim and Jewish communities, I spoke to women who had fled persecution about the incredibly difficult circumstances faced by many asylum seekers in Government-run hotels.

Ham & High: MP Tulip Siddiq is concerned about the safety of asylum-seeking children who are travelling aloneMP Tulip Siddiq is concerned about the safety of asylum-seeking children who are travelling alone (Image: Office of Tulip Siddiq)

I am always deeply struck by how compassionate the people of this country are. My constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn has a proud tradition of welcoming those who are escaping awful hardship from around the world with open arms. I know that people in our area would want far more care and kindness given to vulnerable children going through these systems, often on their own.

The tragic stories of these missing children often begin with being groomed by exploitative gangs. I was shocked to hear a foster carer who had previously been closely involved in the care of migrant children describing the hotels housing asylum-seeking children as ‘supermarkets for gangs’. There is clearly a frightening link between serious organised crime and Government-run accommodation.

Unaccompanied young migrants on average spend 17 days in Home Office-run hotels before being moved to the care of councils in the UK. Meanwhile, earlier this year, a whistle-blower involved in the process estimated that around 10% of children housed in one hotel in Kent were going missing each week.

The ability of gangs to gain such consistent access to vulnerable young people in such a short period of time is deeply concerning. I firmly believe that far more must be done to ensure that these children are properly protected during the time that they are under the care of our government.

Many migrant children in my constituency have begun happy and vibrant new lives here, but for this to be possible it is essential that they are given the care and protection that my compassionate constituents and the people of this country know they deserve.

  • Tulip Siddiq is Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.