A Brighton hotel where a number of unaccompanied asylum seeker children had previously gone missing is set to be reopened by the Home Office to house them, according to leaked internal memos.

The revelation comes after the Home Office was compelled to empty a series of hotels housing unaccompanied children due to reports of a large number of disappearances, with criminal gangs implicated in many cases.

Despite previous assurances from immigration minister Robert Jenrick that no unaccompanied young people were in hotels, a message from a senior asylum official at the Brighton hotel, where at least 136 children have gone missing, discloses plans to reopen the site as early as the end of June 2023.

Concerns over missing children and criminal exploitation

Over 400 unaccompanied children have vanished from Home Office-run hotels, with 154 still unaccounted for, as revealed during a recent parliamentary debate.

Around 50 children are believed to be missing from the Brighton hotel, raising worries that they may have been taken by organised criminal gangs and forced into illegal activities. Some have been identified as potential victims of human trafficking, while others have been discovered by police as far away as Scotland.

Reports suggest that at least 12 children housed in Brighton were found to have been involved in offences such as working on cannabis farms, indicating signs of trafficking and exploitation. One child was allegedly subjected to slavery after being assaulted.

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Controversy surrounding the hotel’s reopening

Brighton and Hove City Council, signalling its opposition to the government’s proposed move, intends to prevent the Home Office from reopening the hotel.

Bella Sankey, the Labour leader of the council, deems the decision unlawful and immoral. She expressed concerns about returning children to a place where they have previously faced allegations of racism and threats of violence from staff.

The council has already warned the Home Office of legal action if children were placed in the hotel again, emphasising that it would litigate if necessary.

Pressure on the asylum system and property ownership concerns

The Home Office’s decision to re-introduce unaccompanied children to hotels highlights the strain on the overcrowded asylum system and the lack of available housing capacity for new arrivals.

The choice of the Brighton hotel has also sparked scrutiny. The property’s freehold is linked to a company involving the family of Nicholas van Hoogstraten, described in the UK national press in 2022 as “Britain’s most toxic landlord” following a history of allegations including abusive behaviour.

Government’s response and security measures

A Home Office spokesperson has stated that due to the increased number of perilous small boat crossings to the UK, it has become necessary to use hotels as temporary shelter for unaccompanied asylum seeker children.

The spokesperson emphasised the government’s commitment to the well-being of children and minors in its care, asserting that 24/7 security is present at each hotel accommodating them.