Exclusive: Official figures for child asylum seekers missing from care in doubt

Government figures on unaccompanied asylum seeker children who
go missing from care have been thrown into doubt,
writes Amy Taylor.

The most recent government figures available state that 15
unaccompanied asylum seeker children went missing from local
authority care in England between 1 April 2002 and 31 March 2003.
But figures obtained by ‘Community Care’ show that at least 44
children went missing from two local authorities alone in 2003.

At least 21 children went missing from West Sussex social
services last year, while 23 went missing from Hillingdon.

Carron Somerset, campaign officer at End Child Prostitution,
Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual
Purposes, said the government’s figure seemed very low.

Susan Ellery, service manager for leaving care and child asylum
at West Sussex Council, said that once a child went missing, the
police, the Immigration Nationality Directorate and the  National
Missing Persons Helpline were all informed.

But she admitted that the success rate for finding children was
“minimal” with most disappearing for good.

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