According to local media, some asylum seekers are being kidnapped by traffickers in the UK, where at least 200 children have gone missing over the last year and a half.
Two hundred children who arrived in the UK seeking asylum without their parents in the last 18 months are missing, immigration minister Robert Jenrick has said.
Thirteen of them are under 16 years old and one is a girl, Jenrick told parliament on Tuesday, adding that they were mostly Albanian.
Albania was the top nationality claiming asylum in the UK with 13,650 applications submitted within a year up until September 2022, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
On Sunday, the Observer newspaper reported that young asylum seekers were being "kidnapped" by criminal gangs outside their hotel in Brighton city in southern England.
"Children are literally being picked up from outside the building, disappearing and not being found. They're being taken from the street by traffickers," a source working for government contractor Mitie told the newspaper.
Sussex Police said they had received no reports of people being kidnapped from hotels in Brighton, but that it did receive a report of two children housed at one of the hotels getting into a car nearby in May 2022.
"The vehicle was stopped on the M25 (motorway) and two men were arrested on suspicion of intent to commit human trafficking," said the force.
"Three young passengers were taken into the care of the Home Office."
Hundreds of thousands missing each year
Jenrick said that since July 2021, there have been "440 missing occurrences" where asylum seekers did not return to their hotels, where they are staying voluntarily.
He added that there was "a significant security presence at the hotel" along with nurses and social workers.
"Those security guards are there to protect the staff and the minors and to raise any suspicious activity immediately with the local police," said the minister.
Of the missing incidents, 88 percent involve Albanian nationals.
"When any child goes missing, a multi-agency missing persons protocol is mobilised alongside the police and relevant local authority," Jenrick said.
"Many of those who have gone missing are subsequently traced," he added.
More than 200,000 missing incidents are recorded in children's care facilities across England and Wales each year, according to government figures.
According to UNHCR statistics, as of November 2022, there were 231,597 refugees, 127,421 pending asylum cases and 5,483 stateless persons in the UK. The war in Ukraine drove a large increase from the previous year.
The vast majority of refugees globally – 4 out of 5 – stay in their region of displacement, and consequently are hosted by developing countries.