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6.13 Safeguarding Foreign National Children Who Go Missing

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This guidance applies to children and Vulnerable Adults who are ‘subject to restriction’, i.e. who has/have been:

  • Proceeds through immigration control without obtaining leave to enter; or
  • Leaves the border control area Border Force accommodation without permission; or
  • Granted temporary admission; or
  • Granted temporary release or bail; or
  • Released on a restriction order; or
  • Served with a notice of liability to deport or is the dependant of a foreign national offender whose status in the UK is under consideration by criminal casework  - these dependants could be British Citizens or have extant leave.

RELATED GUIDANCE

Home Office Guidance: Missing Children And Vulnerable Adults Guidance

AMENDMENT

In January 2016, Section 2, Children in the Care of the Local Authority was extensively updated including information being added with regards to the NSCB Children Missing from Home and Care Protocol.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Children in the Care of the Local Authority
  3. Accompanied Children in the Care of their Parent(s) or a Family Member
  4. Children or Vulnerable Adult Family Members of Persons in Immigration Detention
  5. Action to be Taken when a Missing Child or Vulnerable Adult is Found


1. Introduction

Home Office staff must always make a referral to a statutory agency responsible for child protection or child welfare such as the local police, the Health Service, or the Children’s Department of a Local Authority in a number of circumstances including; when a child is identified as having run away from their parents, where they are Looked After by a Local Authority and have gone missing from their care placement or where they are being hidden by their parents and where there is concern for the child’s safety because they are being hidden by, or have gone missing with, their family.

When a child or Vulnerable Adult is ‘missing’ (their whereabouts cannot be established and the circumstances are out of character or the context suggests that they may be subject of crime or at risk of harm to themselves or another), a missing persons referral must be made by Home Office staff to the police, UK Missing Person Bureau and the Local Authority children’s or adult s services. Likewise, notifications will be made where a missing child or Vulnerable Adult is found by Home Office staff.

The Local Authority/health are responsible for:

  • Reporting any missing child who is in their care to the police;
  • Notifying the Home Office when a child is reported missing to the police or is found;
  • The Children Missing Officer (CMO) within Children’s Social Care should also be advised of the missing children.

The police are responsible for:

  • Investigating all Home Office missing children following receipt of a missing person’s notification;
  • Conducting joint investigations with the Home Office where necessary;
  • Circulating a missing child on the Police National Computer (PNC).

The Police central point of contact is the PNC Team in Liverpool.


2. Children in the Care of the Local Authority

With unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) it is important to be mindful of the risk of these children subsequently going missing from their placement, often within the first 48 hours and then potentially being trafficked. It is important therefore to work preventatively to reduce the risk of this occurring. This will include ensuring that their location is not divulged to anyone until their identity and relationship has been established. It is also important that the child is told that they will not be put into prison and that they can trust their social workers and others as they are likely to have been told to the contrary. The children will not necessarily understand that they are being or at risk of being exploited in any way. It is important to engage with children to try and understand that they need to be protected for example by temporarily removing a mobile phone to prevent contact, encouraging them to memorise a safe phone number to contact the Local Authority or carer if they do go missing, providing 24 hour supervision for the first 4-12 weeks, ensuring that they their room doesn’t allow for easy exit, seeking support from previously trafficked children. Suitable accommodation is an important part of safeguarding the child.

It is important that the age assessment and other aspects of the assessments are conducted swiftly. It is also important that a photograph is taken at the earliest possible opportunity and kept on file. Immigration officials

When the whereabouts of a child in the care of the Local Authority is unknown, it will be the responsibility of that authority to conduct any enquiries necessary to locate the child or report the child missing to the local police. The Local Authority will also notify the Home Office Evidence and Enquiry Unit when a child in their care goes missing or when a missing child returns or is found. The Home Office must maintain regular weekly contact with the Local Authority and the police until the child is found and record all contact with the police and Local Authority.

The NSCB Procedures Manual, Children Missing from Home and Care Joint Protocol should also be followed to co-ordinate activity.

The NSPCC’s Child trafficking Advice Centre known as CTAC (0808 800 5000 and ask for CTAC) is a specialist national service which can provide free advice and support to professionals concerned that a child or young person may be a victim of trafficking. The service is a free government funded. CTAC can advocate for foreign national children in the UK, attend multi-agency meetings and co-ordinate Multi-Agency responses. They can advise on what other professionals should be involved including, for example, the UK Border authorities.

The UK Missing Kids organisation which is a part of Child Exploitation and On-line Protection Agency (CEOP) which in turn is part of the National Crime Agency (NCA) and may also be able to provide help and advice to professionals. Their tactical advice is generally provided to the police.

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is a framework for identifying victims of human trafficking and ensuring they receive the appropriate protection and support. It also provides data to the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) NRM website or telephone 020 7607 2136 or e-mail info@ecpat.org.uk.


3. Accompanied Children in the Care of their Parent(s) or a Family Member

If it is believed by Home Office staff that a child is being coerced to abscond or go missing, this must be reported as a child protection issue with the local police and children’s services.

As soon as there is sufficient information for the Home Office to make a decision that a child is missing, or there are concerns for their safety, the child must be reported to the local police and children’s services as missing. A copy of the missing persons notification form must be faxed or emailed to the Local Authority duty desk and the UK MPB.

The Home Office must maintain regular weekly contact with the Local Authority and the police until the child is found and record all contact with the police and Local Authority.


4. Children or Vulnerable Adult Family Members of Persons in Immigration Detention

If the child or vulnerable adult family member of a foreign national offender is a British Citizen or has valid leave to enter or remain in the UK, the police and Local Authority should be informed immediately of the concerns for the child or vulnerable adult’s safety.


5. Action to be Taken when a Missing Child or Vulnerable Adult is Found

Found by Home Office Staff

The local police and Local Authority must be informed immediately.

In consultation with the local police and Local Authority, a decision will be made as to where the child or vulnerable adult is to be taken if they are not to be left at the address where they are encountered. The Home Office must follow up enquires with the local police and children/adult services in order to identify if there are any safeguarding issues.

The child should be offered a return interview in line with the NSCB Procedures Manual, Children Missing from Home and Care Joint Protocol.

Found by the Police or Local Authority

The Home Office Command and Control Unit (CommandandControlUnit@homeoffice.gov.uk) will be the single point of contact for the local police and the Evidence and Enquiry Unit will be the single point of contact for Local Authorities to notify the Home Office that a child or vulnerable adult has been found.

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