At least 239 unaccompanied refugee children permanently disappeared from UK care facilities in 2015.
According to a joint investigation undertaken by BBC 5 Live and Buzzfeed News, the immensely alarming figure represents a 75% rise in the number of lone asylum-seeking children going missing from care.
The figures come as a result of freedom of information requests which were delivered to 140 local authorities throughout England and Wales. Shockingly, they also revealed that 51 children disappeared from care in October 2015 alone.
In the words of the report: “There are fears some of the children are being taken into a life of slavery and exploitation”. It also suggested that the children are being harmed in cannabis farms, the sex industry or sweatshops.
Other findings have revealed that the Home Office is “releasing children into unchecked accommodation” despite concerns that they would be trafficked.
Currently, the missing children are being treated as at “low” or “medium” risk, and councils are “struggling” to provide enough safe and secure accommodation for them. These findings also helped to unveil the fact that the number of Vietnamese children going missing from care has tripled over the last year.
Libby Freeman, founder of the refugee charity Calais Action, has demanded the government launch “a full and proper investigation”.
Ms. Freeman also revealed: “Unlike in Calais, where they are refusing to take responsibility, they can’t sidestep it here. Austerity and the cuts are partly to blame for this. The social care system has been damaged and more and more people are falling through the net”.