POLCE are set to allocate more resources to protecting refugee children feared to be at risk of being trafficked, after reports of them going missing dramatically increased.

The number of reports of unaccompanied asylum seeking children going missing has increased by 42 per cent this year.

Latest figures reveal that 16 per cent of all reports of missing children in Oxfordshire over the six months from January to June related to just 14 refugee children – some going missing on multiple occasions

The figures prompted Oxfordshire County Council to ask Thames Valley Police to appoint a senior officer to tackle the problem. The force said it was making the issue a priority.

Detective Chief Inspector Felicity Parker said: “As the tactical lead for modern slavery at Thames Valley Police, one of my priorities is to understand the risk that unaccompanied asylum seeking children are at in relation to being trafficked or a victim of modern slavery so we can work in partnership to protect those children.

"We already co-chair the missing children panel with Oxfordshire County Council to ensure that we work together to find any children that are missing in our county as soon as possible.

She added: "We will be liaising with the council regarding its recommendation in the coming weeks."

On Monday Thames Valley Police launched its Hidden Harm campaign to tackle abuse-based crime and DCI Parker said it would initially focus on modern slavery – of which they receive three reports each week.

Director of the Oxford-based charity Asylum Welcome, Kate Smart, said trafficking was a worry but insisted it was important to understand why children were going missing.

She said: "Those that go missing tend to do so very quickly after arriving in the area. When someone registers than disappears off the radar, it does raise questions over trafficking.

"There is a county council orientation programme and accommodation for them and we encourage young people to come to our youth clubs and particularly work with unaccompanied teenagers, putting on a range of activities.

"From my experience most of them are very nervous about not complying with the system here and don't go missing."

She added that the rise could be down to unaccompanied children travelling to London or other areas of the country where other refugee children or adults they know live.

The council's Social and Health Care Asylum Seeker Service is responsible for providing housing and support to young asylum seekers, under the age of 18, who are in this country without their family.

It has pledged to take in 15 additional children this year as well as those who spontaneously appear in the county – often after being discovered at motorway service stations.