‘There can be no compromise when it comes to children’s safety and welfare.’
In a landmark judgement on July 25, the High Court ruled the government’s use of hotels to accommodate children that are seeking asylum in Britain and are not accompanied by an adult, as ‘unlawful.’
The legal action against the Home Office was launched by Brighton and Hove City Council and Every Child Protected Against Trafficking charity. They argued that the government-run hotels being use to house the children were ‘not fit for purpose.’
The court was informed how the Home Secretary’s use of hotel accommodation for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum exceed the proper limits of her powers and was therefore ‘unlawful.’
On announcing the verdict, Justice Chamberlain told the court how the ability to place minors in hotels can only be used on “very short periods in true emergency situations.”
“It cannot be used systematically or routinely in circumstances where it is intended, or functions in practice, as a substitute for local authority care.
“From December 2021 at the latest, the practice of accommodating children in hotels, outside local authority care, was both systematic and routine and had become an established part of the procedure for dealing with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children,” the judge continued.
The court had also previously heard how 154 children remained missing from hotels. One missing child is just 12 years old. The ruling also found that Kent County Council had acted unlawfully by failing to provide accommodation and look after asylum-seeking lone children when notified by the Home Office.
In his 55-page judgement, Justice Chamberlain stated that in ceasing to accept responsibility for some newly arriving unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, while continuing to accept other children into its care, Kent County Council chose to treat some unaccompanied asylum-seeking children differently from and less favourably than other children, because of their status as asylum seekers.
“Ensuring the safety and welfare of children with no adult to look after them is among the most fundamental duties of any civilised state,” said the judge.
The Refugee Council, which provides support and advice to refugees and asylum seekers, described the ruling as a “landmark day for children’s rights.”
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “The court has confirmed that there can be no exceptions when the rights of vulnerable children are concerned.
“The government should do everything in its power to ensure these children are safe and in the care of local authorities.”
On the children who are missing from the hotels, Solomon said: “These children have been lost and endangered here in the United Kingdom.
“They are not children in care who have run away.
“They are children who, because of how they came to be here, never entered the care system in the first place and so were never ‘looked after’.”
Calling for clarity on what was being done in relation to the missing children, Solomon warned there can be no compromise when it comes to children’s safety and welfare.
“We hope the government will take the necessary steps to find the missing children and ensure they are safe.”
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward