Unvetted staff working in hotels housing child asylum seekers, report says

Home Office criticised after inspectors discover workers without criminal record checks had access to master keys

Unaccompanied children seeking asylum have been living in hotels alongside adults whose backgrounds have not been checked, a damning report has revealed.

An independent inspection has severely criticised the Home Office after staff in two hotels were found not to have been checked by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), as is required by government rules. Staff had access to master keys while young refugees stayed in the building.

The findings come as official figures show that in the year to September, 3,256 children were held in hotels. Of those, 260 were 14 years old and 639 were 15.

According to the report by David Neal, the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration, inspectors examined four hotels designated to house young people. Two of those were found to have staff living onsite who had not been cleared by the DBS.

At an inspected hotel in Folkestone, Kent, three members of staff who had access to master keys were living in the basement, and none had been checked. At another in Hythe, four staff had not been cleared.

“While the staff were now in the process of being DBS checked, they remained living onsite. At interview with team leaders and Home Office staff overseeing the hotels, it became clear that there was no consistent requirement for hotel staff to be DBS checked,” the report says.

Inspectors found that while the vast majority of children in Home Office care were male and over 15, they included a boy of 10 and a baby who arrived with their mother, who was under 18.

Iranians made up the largest number from a single nationality of arrivals, with Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians and Eritreans comprising the rest of the top five nationalities.

The report, an inquiry into the housing of unaccompanied children seeking asylum, also found:

  • The Home Office’s practices and procedures did not represent a child-centred approach.

  • A lack of consistent and effective oversight of contractors.

  • A lack of planning on how to end the use of hotels for unaccompanied child asylum seekers.

Neal said a clear cross-government approach was required to house extremely vulnerable children in hotels.

“The Home Office must assess the needs of the young people and mature an operation which can keep them safe and promote their wellbeing. There is an urgent need for the Home Office to consider how this requirement will be delivered,” he said.

The Home Office has accepted a recommendation that only those who have been cleared with an enhanced check should be allowed to reside or work at the hotels.

The Home Office has released four reports by Neal this week, raising suspicions that the timing has been planned to coincide with a busy news schedule. Two were handed to the home secretary’s office in May and two in June and they should have been published within eight weeks.

In a separate report on Tuesday, which inspected French border controls, it was found that Romanians were disproportionately singled out for checks and Border Force records were poorly kept.

Data showed that 29% of passengers subject to further examination at the Gare du Nord in Paris and the Eurotunnel terminal near Calais in March 2022 were Romanian nationals – equating to 397.

Neal recommended the Home Office conduct a review to ascertain on what grounds particular nationalities are being subjected to greater levels of scrutiny.

The Home Office did not accept the recommendation and said there was no proof that it had acted disproportionately because the size of national cohorts was not available for comparison.

A second inquiry, published on Tuesday by the inspectorate and examining family visa processing, criticised delays of up to five months for applications to be processed. The report said 95% of applications were granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

The government partially accepted the recommendation and said it would undertake a review of service standards for family routes this year.


Rajeev Syal and Emily Dugan

The GuardianTramp

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