AN MP has made a passionate plea to do more to stop child asylum seekers being kidnapped from a hotel as he described a gang leader being arrested.

In an emotional address to the House of Commons, Labour MP for Hove Peter Kyle slammed the government and Brighton and Hove City Council for failing to address the scandal of dozens of children being kidnapped from a hotel in his constituency.

He told MPs he had visited the hotel in Hove, adding: “I saw for myself, having met the children who were there, that some of them were extremely vulnerable - vulnerable themselves emotionally and vulnerable if they should leave the premises to being coerced into crime.”

Mr Kyle criticised Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick and said: “It is incorrect to say these children are not being coerced into crime because just last year Sussex Police pursued a car that had collected two children from outside this hotel.

“When they managed to get the car to safety, they released two child migrants and they arrested one of the members who was driving it, who was a gang leader who was there to coerce the children into crime.”

Although he had raised the alarm with the council, social services, the Home Office and the police, Mr Kyle said that “the only organisation that responded effectively and with the kind of seriousness that you’d expect was Sussex Police, but they lacked the facilities, the resources and the powers to do the job that needed to be done".

He said: "The uncomfortable truth for us is if one child who was related to one of us in this room went missing the world would stop, but in the community I represent a child has gone missing, then five went missing, then a dozen went missing, then 50 went missing and currently today 76 are missing and nothing is happening.”

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for the neighbouring constituency of Brighton Pavilion, accused the Home Office of “staggering complacency and incompetence” and described the scandal as “horrific”.

She said: “Where is the special operation to find the missing children? This feels like the plight of girls in Rotherham who were treated like they didn’t matter and frankly it is sickening.

“The staggering complacency and incompetence from the Home Office is shameful.

“It was entirely foreseeable that children were at risk of being snatched, abducted and coerced by criminals.

“We need immediate answers, we need an urgent investigation, we need to ask how many more children are going to go missing before we actually see some action.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused the government of a “total dereliction of duty”.

She said: “There is a criminal network involved and the government is completely failing to stop them.

“There is still no clarity about whether the Home Office or the council are legally responsible for these children.

“This is a total dereliction of duty that is putting children at risk - we need urgent and serious action to crack down on these gangs and to keep children and young people safe.”

Sussex Police confirmed to The Argus that since the Home Office began housing asylum seekers in hotels in the city in July 2021, 137 unaccompanied children have been reported missing.

Of these, more than half, 76, are still missing and remain under investigation.

Robert Jenrick told the Commons that across the UK, 4,600 unaccompanied children seeking asylum have been accommodated in hotels, with roughly ten per cent (440) going missing.

Some 200 children remain missing - 13 of whom are under the age of 16.

Of those still missing, 88 per cent of them are Albanian nationals, he revealed.

He said the government had “no alternative” but to use hotels to house unaccompanied children due to the rise in boat crossings over the Channel.

Mr Jenrick said: “When any child goes missing, a multi-agency missing persons protocol is mobilised alongside the police and relevant local authority to establish their whereabouts and to ensure that they are safe.

“I have been told that any young person leaving one of these hotels and not returning is treated in exactly the same way as any young person who goes missing of any nationality or immigration status anywhere else in the country.

“Many of those who have gone missing are subsequently traced and located.

“Safeguarding concerns are, and will remain, a priority for me and for my department as we deliver broader reforms that are so desperately needed to ensure we have a fair and effective asylum system that works in the interests of the British people.”

He also claimed that, on any given day, there is a “significant security presence” at the hotels, with security guards on hand to raise any suspicious activity with police to protect staff and minors, as well as “a number of social workers on site 24/7”.

Sussex Police confirmed that two men were arrested on suspicion of intent to commit human trafficking after reports of two children housed at the Hove hotel getting into a car nearby. They stopped the vehicle on the M25 in May last year.

Both suspects have been released under investigation, with enquiries still ongoing.

A police spokesman told The Argus: “When people go missing, our primary role is to investigate the circumstances including assessing if they are vulnerable or could have been a victim of crime.

“If risks to their safety are identified, we and other appropriate parties will take action to safeguard them.

“Once a person is located, where criminality is associated with either the initial disappearance or subsequent harbouring of those wishing to remain missing, Sussex Police will assess and take positive action as appropriate.

“We continue to work with the Home Office to help put prevention measures in place, including multi-agency safeguarding meetings with other partners, to ensure that, when people are reported missing, we have the best opportunity to locate them.”