June 23. 2024. 6:50

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UN experts urge UK to protect unaccompanied children seeking asylum

The UK must ensure the protection of all children seeking asylum and put an end to the practice of placing unaccompanied children in hotels, UN experts warned in a statement published by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Tuesday.

The experts – Siobhán Mullally, special rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Felipe González Morales, special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, and Tomoya Obokata, special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery – call on the UK government to protect all children seeking asylum and to stop placing unaccompanied children in hotels.

“We are deeply concerned at reports that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are going missing and are at high risk of being trafficked within the UK,” the experts said.

“The current policy of placing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in hotels places them outside of the UK child protection system and is discriminatory,” they said, adding that it increases the risk of trafficking.

“The UK Government appears to be failing to abide by its core obligations under international human rights law to ensure the best interests of the child, without discrimination, and to prevent trafficking of children,” the experts said.

The statement mentions that, since June 2021, 4,600 unaccompanied children have been housed in six hotels, 440 of whom had disappeared and 220 remain unaccounted for as of 23 January, the majority of whom are Albanian citizens.

In January, Minister Lord Murray admitted that the UK government lost 176 Albanian child asylum seekers and did not notify the country, sparking outrage across Tirana over the lack of responsibility from UK authorities and the fact that they were not notified.

“Due to the rise in dangerous small boat crossings, the government has had no alternative but to urgently use hotels to give unaccompanied asylum-seeking children arriving in the UK a roof over their heads,” the UK Home Office said in response to the UN experts’ statement, The Guardian reported.

(Sofia Stuart Leeson | EURACTIV.com)