On Saturday February 18th, the Guardian reported that children missing from Home Office-run hotels in the south of England have been found being criminally exploited on our doorstep in north Manchester, as well as in other locations around the country.
The responsibility for harm done to these children lies with the Home Office. Children need to be looked after by the local authority they are in – they should never have been warehoused in hotels with no one taking accountability for their wellbeing. Spending months and years in institutional, segregated accommodation is a wholly unacceptable way to treat anyone, adults included. In the case of children it is a shocking dereliction of duty.
This is just one example of how the Home Office treats children who seek safety on our shores. From interrogating and disbelieving their age, to housing them in the Manston detention camp, to leaving them waiting in the system for years at high cost to their wellbeing. Now, leaving children in hotels where they are highly likely to be abducted and victim to trafficking.
We know what the government should do to fix this broken system: make decisions on asylum claims so children aren’t stuck in the backlog; introduce safe routes so children do not have to risk their lives in the Channel; and ensure safeguarding of children’s rights once they’re here, which would include moving children out of hotels and into safe accommodation right away. Instead they are threatening to further endanger children by taking them out of the care of local authorities, removing this fundamental entitlement on the basis of immigration status.
It is no reassurance to hear the police and Border Force are present to crack down on children exploited in Manchester. What they need is care, not punishment or immigration enforcement, and for their rights as children to be guaranteed. The way we treat children in our neighbourhoods who need our help should be representative of who we are; the way these children have been failed shames us all.