Hundreds of child refugees have disappeared since arriving in the UK, with many possibly being exploited by human traffickers in the form of sexual abuse or modern slavery, according to new revelations.
Figures released by the Home Office to The Independent show UK authorities have no idea about the condition of 360 of the vulnerable children.
More than 200 child migrants have been missing for over two years, prompting serious concerns for their safety, The Independent can reveal.
Campaigners and lawmakers in parliament say the figures show the children have been “failed” by Theresa May’s government and are “being let down by a system which is meant to keep them safe”.
The child refugees may vanish for many reasons, including being victim of human traffickers, running away due to trauma or distress, mistrust of authorities or fear of deportation.
The missing children are subject to human trafficking, sexual abuse or child labor.
Over the past five years, 9,287 unaccompanied minors have sought safety in Britain as asylum seekers travelling without a parent or guardian.
Many of the children are fleeing poverty, war and persecution in their native countries.
Campaigners and politicians now say these new figures on the number of missing child refugees shows that of the few who are granted asylum in Britain, the government is failing to provide sufficient support to ensure their safety once they arrive.
“Any child who goes missing can be exposed to people who seek to harm them, so there is certainly no room for complacency when it comes to tracing them,” said Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England.
“Authorities must carry out proper risk assessments and put in place safeguarding plans for all children who are in their care and there needs to be clear communication about responsibilities when they move between areas. They must also work with the police to ensure that any child who goes missing child is located as soon as possible so that they can be protected.”
A study conducted earlier this year by Europol, the EU’s criminal intelligence agency, found 10,000 child refugees have gone missing across Europe since arriving in the continent.