Almost a fifth of isolated Albanian refugee children in Kent are missing, council says | Immigration and asylum

Almost a fifth of unaccompanied Albanian refugee children have disappeared, an English council has revealed. Kent County Council took in 197 unaccompanied children from Albania between January 1 and October 31 this year and of these, 39 are missing.

The figures were revealed after a freedom of information request from the BBC.

The town hall had previously announced that it could no longer accommodate children between June and November 2021 and between August and December 2020. Each time, it declared that its services were overwhelmed and called on other authorities to welcome more children. unaccompanied children.

Albanians accounted for the largest number of people coming in small boats across the Channel this year, accounting for more than 12,000 of the arrivals.

Kent County Council said that if a child goes missing, they work closely with the police and the Home Office to locate them. A spokesperson said: “With the significant increase and recognized vulnerability of unaccompanied Albanian children, safeguarding protocols are taking place at the referral point. Even then, it can be very difficult to prevent the disappearance of all the children.

“The protocols involve strategic discussions and child protection investigations with the police, the Home Office, health and other public authorities to ensure, to the best of our ability, that the child is protected against the risk of exploitation and disappearance.

“When the child is located, arrangements are quickly made to establish what happened to the child and how he can be protected from further disappearance.

“Since the significant increase in the number of unaccompanied Albanian children in May 2022, we have held multiple forums with local and national public authorities to go beyond these established protocols as children continue to arrive and depart. vanish.

“This has helped improve professional understanding and decision making for these children, which has helped reduce the number of missing children.”

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the government must take action to crack down on human trafficking gangs and ensure proper protections are in place for children.

“It’s extremely serious,” she said. “Trafficking gangs bring vulnerable children and adolescents into the country to exploit them.

“The Home Office clearly has no control over this; that so many Albanian children disappear like that should have sounded the alarm in the government. They must not continue to let the gangs get away with this.

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