Brighton and Hove councillor Bella Sankey has brought to public attention a seemingly endemic problem of missing refugee children in the area.
According to Sussex police, in the last six months, more than seventy children have disappeared from hotel accommodations run by the Home Office across Hove. At least thirty of those children went missing from the same location – Langfords Hotel – of which only nine have apparently been found.
Hove MP Peter Kyle, quoted in the Brighton and Hove News, said: “Hotels are not a place for unaccompanied children. They are illegal and should be closed and the money spent on foster homes instead.”
For anyone familiar with the current Home Office climate, it is no surprise that all kinds of human rights violations are swept under the rug in these accommodations, from refusing access to medical care to rampant exploitation of hotel employees.
What’s more, according to local Labour councillor Amanda Grimshaw, “there have also been worrying reports that the Home Office has provided new dates of birth to unaccompanied children in order to place them in adult accommodation.”
Sussex Police said, “the vast majority of these individuals have no known links to anybody in the country, very little money and in some cases no mobile phones, meaning there are very few lines of inquiry available when trying to locate them.”
Certain patterns emerge from this grand scheme of neglect and endangerment. All three hotels where the Home Office houses migrants in Hove are owned by the family of Nicholas Hoogstraten.
Hoogstraten has been a powerful ‘slumlord’ for over five decades and is a convicted criminal. He famously once said: “I’m a Fascist, and a Nazi, didn’t you know that? If I wanted, I could pay £50 to men in London to get every Jew in Brighton bumped off”.
Green councillor and Deputy Council Leader Hannah Allbrooke said: “At present in Brighton and Hove, we have three hotels housing asylum-seekers, one of which is supporting unaccompanied refugee children. “These hotels are costing the public purse millions of pounds, all while private companies make a huge profit.
“Clearsprings, the company that was commissioned to provide these hotels, including in Brighton and Hove, reported profits up more than sixfold last year. The business gave its directors dividends of almost £28 million”.
Hove’s story is part of a nationwide problem. Across the country 222 migrant children have gone missing in the last eighteen months, and a total of 130 of those cases are in the Brighton region of Sussex.
A review of Sussex Police’s Twitter page shows that they no longer put up the adverts of missing children, but only update the page once a child is found. There appear to be around two of these since August. This is in huge contrast to the main police website where a list of missing children is still available.
Whilst Brighton MPs lay the blame at each others feet to call out each party’s boroughs and apparent ‘inaction’, there is no indication that the number of refugee children going missing will decrease any time soon. This is a demographic forgotten by the government, and used as political canon fodder by career politicians.
There are enquiries being made by police and local healthcare professionals. Whether these will yield an answer remains to be seen.
Sumaya Hassan, is a member of the YCL’s London Branch