A fifth of lone Albanian child migrants in Kent have gone missing, council admits

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Almost a fifth of lone Albanian child migrants have gone missing, a council has revealed.

Kent County Council took in 197 unaccompanied child migrants from Albania between January 1 and October 31 of this year and, of those, 39 are missing.

The figures were revealed following a Freedom of Information request by the BBC.

Kent County Council had previously announced it could no longer take in any more child migrants between June and November 2021 and between August and December 2020.

Each time they said its services were overwhelmed and called on other authorities to take in more unaccompanied children.

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

Migrant Channel crossing incidents
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, onboard a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the Channel (Gareth Fuller/PA)

A spokesman said: “With the significant increase and recognised vulnerability of Albanian unaccompanied children, safeguarding protocols take place at point of referral. Even then it can be very challenging to prevent all children from going missing.

“The protocols involve strategy discussions and child protection investigations with police, Home Office, health and other public authorities to ensure, as best as possible, the child is safeguarded from the risk of exploitation and going missing.

“When the child is located, arrangements are quickly made to establish what has happened to the child and how they can be safeguarded from going missing again.

“Since the significant rise in Albanian unaccompanied children in May 2022, we have convened multiple forums with local and national public authorities to look beyond these established protocols as children continued to arrive and go missing.

“This has helped improve professional understanding and decision-making for these children, which has contributed toward a reduction in the number of children going missing.”

For Labour, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the Government needs to take action to tackle people trafficking gangs and ensure there are proper child protections in place.

“This is extremely serious,” she said. “Trafficking gangs are bringing children and vulnerable teenagers into the country for exploitation.

“The Home Office clearly doesn’t have a grip on this at all; for so many Albanian children to just disappear like this should have raised major alarm bells in government.

“They must not keep letting the gangs get away with this.”

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