CHILD refugees have disappeared – sometimes permanently – from hotels under the watch of the Home Office, according to a damning new report into the UK’s immigration and asylum systems.

Unaccompanied minors have been placed in hotels by immigration officials, resulting in an “unknown number” escaping or being taken from state care, prompting calls from a cross-party group of MPs for Home Secretary Priti Patel to take “urgent” action.

The home affairs select committee’s report, published on Monday, found the “glacial pace of decision-making” in processing asylum claims – on average 550 days for a child and 449 for adults – meant many felt compelled to “leave a life in limbo” and take matters into their own hands.

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Matthew Rycroft (below), the top civil servant in the Home Office previously told the committee it was “broadly speaking” the department which had responsibility for safeguarding unaccompanied children housed in hotels - a policy that has been in place for nine months.

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While he said safeguarding officers were “constantly” on-site, the committee said it was “unclear” what powers were being used to protect children, calling the policy “extremely concerning”.

The report added: “The Government must provide a clear timeline for ending the accommodation of unaccompanied children in hotels.”

A “worrying trend” of major policy announcements being made without schemes, such as the deeply controversial Rwanda policy, being properly “worked through, tested and even agreed between Government departments” was also identified by the committee.

The committee also demanded the Government produce evidence to prove its intentions to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda would act as a deterrent, noting it was “not clear it will have that effect”.

Leading immigration and asylum lawyer Alasdair Mackenzie said this finding showed the Home Office “advances policies for their political [or] PR rather than practical impact”.

Elsewhere in the report, concern was raised that the UK Government made no effort to track the reasons why migrants were “sufficiently desperate to reach the UK that they will risk their lives to cross the Channel in flimsy, unseaworthy dinghies”.

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The committee said it was “surprising” information on this was not collected and urged the Government to do so as a matter of priority so as to better formulate future immigration and asylum policy.

Antiquated IT systems, high staff turnover and overstretched teams were identified as being behind the “slow pace” at which the Home Office operates, with the committee recommending the department made reducing its outstanding caseload its highest priority in terms of asylum policy.

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The report noted “safe and legal” routes do not exist for all countries and said the majority of people making dangerous crossings over the Channel – most of whom are young men – came from countries “disfigured by current or recent war”.

The UK should establish strong links with other countries, in particular France, to provide safe routes to the UK for asylum seekers.

Doing so would “undermine people-smuggling criminal organisations” which the Government says it hopes to break up with its hard-line asylum policies.

The committee noted that 60,000 people were expected to cross the Channel in 2022, with around 13,000 having done so as of July.

It added: “Soberingly, at least 166 have died or gone missing as they sought a new home in our country, 27 of them lost at sea on a single terrible day last November. Organised criminal networks are profiting hugely from human desperation.”

Stuart McDonald, the SNP’s home affairs spokesman who also sits on the committee, said the Home Secretary must “stop pursuing headline-grabbing policies” such as the Rwanda scheme and “get on with fixing the asylum system she has allowed to fall apart”.

He added: “During her tenure, the numbers waiting for asylum decisions has rocketed, safe legal routes have been closed down and the Home Office has been left without the staffing and resources it needs.

“Those seeking asylum here deserve humane treatment and fair and quick processing of their claims – not delays, detention and offshoring.

“Unfortunately, under Priti Patel, the Home Office has moved further and further away from such a just model, both through deliberately cruel policies, and general incompetence.

"It is crucial, now more so than ever before, that Scotland becomes an independent country in order to forge a new asylum system that offers refugees protection and security, and not further pain and misery."

Patel has pledged to plough ahead with the plans to deport asylum seekers despite the first flight being cancelled due to a successful legal challenge.