Robert Jenrick has confirmed this out of 4,6000 unaccompanied minors who have arrived in the UK since July 2021.
The Interior Ministry has been accused of “abandoning” vulnerable children after reports of dozens of people being abducted from ministry-run hotels.
Ministers are under fire after an investigation by the Observer reveals that dozens of refugee children have disappeared from a Home Office-run hotel in Brighton.
Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has confirmed that of the 4,600 unaccompanied minors who have arrived in the UK since July 2021, 440 have disappeared at some point, with 200 missing.
Of the 200 people, 13 are under the age of 16 and one is a woman.
The vast majority—88%—are Albanian, with the rest coming from Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Turkey.
Raising an urgent question in the House of Commons, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas likened the plight of unaccompanied children to the girls who were sexually abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.
The Brighton Pavilion MP said: “This is terrible. Vulnerable children are being abandoned by the Home Office. So many are missing.”
Jenrick said the Home Office “takes our protection responsibilities very seriously”, but added that the local government has no “alternative” other than to use specialist hotels temporarily while finding accommodation.
He also said that the government “doesn’t have the authority to detain unaccompanied refugee children in these settings, and that some of them are missing.”
Lucas replied: “We are not asking him to detain the children, we are asking the Home Office to implement some basic safeguards so we can keep them safe.”
He accused the Interior Ministry of “astonishing indifference and incompetence” and called for an urgent investigation into the disappearances.
“It was completely predictable that children were at risk of being abducted, abducted and oppressed by criminals,” he said.
“Where is the special op to find the missing children? This sounds like the plight of girls being treated as petty in Rotherham, and frankly, it’s sickening.”
An whistleblower working for child protection resources and Home Office contractor Mitie told The Observer that the children were smuggled off the street outside the Brighton hotel and put into cars.
“Children are literally taken from outside the building, lost and cannot be found,” the source said. “They’re being taken away by street traders.”
Jenrick said the reports of the abductions outside the hotel were “very serious allegations” and that he had asked hotel officials to let him know if there was any evidence of it.
He said: “I have been given no evidence that this has happened, but I will continue to investigate and senior officials in my department will meet with the Mitie security team in the coming days to ask them if they have seen any incidents.” and whether the person named as the media informant brought up issues with Mitie.
“If they did, why weren’t these issues forwarded to the Home Office afterwards?
“So he reassured me that I wouldn’t be closing the issue.”
The immigration minister continued: “When any child goes missing, a multi-agency missing persons protocol is mobilized with the police and the relevant local authority to determine their whereabouts and ensure their safety.
“Most of the missing were later traced and found.”