The Home Office will end its contract with a hotel in the city which housed asylum-seeking children.

The hotel, in Hove, which The Argus currently chooses not to name, saw dozens of unaccompanied refugee children go missing after first housing asylum seekers in July 2021.

Some of the children who went missing were later arrested for a range of offences in different parts of the country, with one reportedly forced into slavery.

Since the Home Office began housing asylum seekers in the city, 139 unaccompanied children have been reported missing. Of those, 96 have since been located with one investigation transferred to a neighbouring police force.

Some 123 of those reported missing have since turned 18.

The policy of housing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in hotels was later ruled unlawful in a court case in July, brought forward by Brighton and Hove City Council.

Although no children have been housed in the hotel since March, the Home Office is understood to have continued paying money to the owner of the hotel.

Speaking exclusively to The Argus, council leader Bella Sankey confirmed that the contract would be terminated next week on November 30.

Cllr Sankey said she was “really pleased” by the move and said: “Despite the fact that the policy was found to be unlawful back in July, and despite the fact that there have been no children in that hotel since March, the Home Office has still been paying public money to the owner of that hotel to keep it stood up.

“As of November 30, we have been informed that will no longer be the case.

“It’s a really important moment and milestone for the city.”

The Argus: Council leader Bella SankeyCouncil leader Bella Sankey

Hove MP Peter Kyle, who raised the issue of missing refugee children from the hotel in Parliament earlier this year, said he had received a handwritten letter from immigration minister Robert Jenrick confirming that the contract was ending.

Mr Kyle said: “These hotels should never have existed in the first place. They have been mismanaged, they haven’t been good for us as a country or those people living in them - it’s served nobody’s purpose.

“Children should never have been in that setting. They were vulnerable. Whatever the reasons that brought them to our shores, they were isolated, they didn’t have English as a first language, they weren’t culturally familiar with life here and they were extremely vulnerable.

“People would have seen the anger it provoked in me at the time when some went missing. That came from very deep within me - it was genuine sincere rage at the sheer incompetence and lack of humanity that created that situation.

“They could have chosen differently, but they chose to create that situation - and I will never forgive them for it.” 

“Now they are closing them, they haven’t put in place any additional funding or pathways for those people who will be displaced from them. The burden will now fall on, we think, local authorities to solve the problem that this government has created - and that worries me deeply.”

The Argus: MP for Hove Peter KyleMP for Hove Peter Kyle (Image: The Argus)

Mr Kyle also expressed frustration at the amount of public money that has been wasted on the policy.

“All the way through the asylum crisis, the government have thrown money managing failure and not spent wisely tackling the root causes.

“Had they processed applications swiftly, had they worked cooperatively with our European neighbours, we wouldn’t have this problem in the first place, but at every opportunity the government have created a row for political ends and not chosen to solve problems for the good of our country.

“That’s something that has become a central character to the current Tory Party and we here in Hove have been at the sharp end with the asylum hotels.”

Cllr Sankey said that the legal action the council took against the Home Secretary over the policy was one of her proudest achievements in the six months since taking control of the council in May.

Cllr Sankey said: “We have not only ensured that not only no children can be essentially abandoned unaccompanied in a hotel in this city, but we have also changed national policy.

“That is something that Brighton and Hove can be really proud of.

“There are now no children in hotels on their own as a result of action taken by Brighton and Hove City Council.”

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: “Due to the rise in dangerous small boat crossings, the government has had no alternative but to urgently use hotels to accommodate unaccompanied asylum-seeking children while they await placements with local authorities.

“We are making every effort to end the use of expensive hotels which are costing the taxpayer £8.2 million a year, including opening ex-military sites and the Bibby Stockholm which are more affordable for taxpayers and more manageable for communities.”