Dozens of missing schoolchildren feared forced into arranged marriages
By CHRIS BROOKE
Dozens of children are missing from school amid fears they have been forced into arranged marriages, it was revealed yesterday.
In Bradford, 33 children remain "unaccounted for" after being off school for at least two months with no explanation.
The Government is also concerned about another 14 areas of the country where it is feared children under 16 could also be missing from school rolls.
The figures were disclosed yesterday by Children's Minister Kevin Brennan during evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, which is investigating the controversial issue of forced marriages.
"It is a serious concern when any child - any single child - becomes unaccounted for," said Mr Brennan.
"And what we need to try to do is seek an explanation of what has happened."
Asked whether the police were looking for them, he added: "They should be."
Committee chairman Keith Vaz, a former Labour minister, said MPs were "very, very concerned".
"The figures you have given us quite frankly have shocked members of this committee just in relation to Bradford," he said.
He added: "There are 14 other areas where there are missing children. This is totally unsatisfactory."
A spokesman for the department of children, schools and families said there was no evidence the "missing" children had been forced into marriage but Bradford was an area where "a forced marriage problem has been reported".
"We have asked the local authority to find out more details about these children," she said.
"They might have moved somewhere else or they may have left the country."
"This is a relatively new inquiry and we are trying to get more information."
A spokesman for the local education authority in Bradford played down any fears, saying parents may have simply failed to register their children at another school since moving house.
1) Dozens of missing schoolchildren feared forced into arranged marriages