IF seven young, white, British children went missing from the streets of the county to be smuggled away to become part of the dangerous and secretive drug, sex and slave trades, there would be national uproar.
We would demand to know why, in this day and age, the most vulnerable members of our society, those who most deserve our protection and care, are allowed to simply disappear off the radar.
The tearful parents, the appalled communities, would ensure swift action to make sure there was no repeat; that the gaps in the system which allow the evil who exploit innocence and youth are closed and the children who find themselves embroiled in such dangerous worlds rescued.
So brace yourself. Because seven children – at the very least – have just disappeared from our streets in the last few months alone. More than 20 vanished last year.
And there are very real fears these figures are extremely conservative; that the real figure will be much, much higher.
But if the real figure is just two, that’s two too many.
The problem is that these children going missing aren’t white, British children. They are entering this country seeking refuge or travelling on a promised ticket of transforming the fortunes of their families.
They arrive through the ports into Kent to a society that is turning its back on them; obscured through a fog of politics and knee-jerk reactions.
Even our compassion for children – children as young as ten in danger and frightened – is now on the wane.
And it is on the wane because of the issues over immigration.
Kent has found itself on the frontline of the immigration issue for many years. Dismissing concerns as only coming from the inherently racist is a mistake. Amid an economic background of austerity and services being slashed left right and centre, the perception – at whatever degree – that there are those who enter the county with a view to absorbing that money rather than working to be part of the community, is a very real one.
It is, of course, wrong.
While there may be a small minority who enter this nation believing it to be the state of free milk and honey, the vast majority of immigrants – illegal or otherwise –who enter through our ports, do so determined to become part of the vibrant, multi-racial society which makes this nation of ours so great.
However, with booming populations and the public purse being sucked dry by efforts to cut the nation’s deficit, we are all quite entitled to stop and question an open door policy which puts such an extra strain on our services.
That is a genuine issue worthy of genuine, level-headed, discussion.
What, however, we as a society cannot and should not even question, is our responsibility to humanity. That all children deserve safety and security the minute they enter our country. That they do not fall through the gaps and into a shadowy under world of threats, menace and pain.
Children enter this country and then go missing from our streets each and every month. They may not have been born here, they may not have lived here, but they must never be allowed to be overlooked or ignored.
Yes, there are far wider issues which should not be lost amid arguments from the right or left of centre ground politics – but our combined responsibility to ensure a child’s safety, or indeed anyone who flees war or mistreatment, should be united and strong.
We are a caring nation. We must ensure we demonstrate that to the world’s children.