Kent child migrant crisis to erupt in two days as county hits capacity to house youngsters | UK | News (Reports)


Kent child migrant crisis to erupt in two days as county hits capacity to house youngsters (Image: Getty)

Councillor Sue Chandler, the head of Children’s Services at Kent County Council, said the numbers now arriving on the south coast are similar to the refugee crisis in 2015.

She admitted the council will be demanding emergency help from other local authorities and ministers.

The Conservative politician, whose district includes Dover, said small boats are easier for vile people smugglers to pack children into, prompting fears the system will be overwhelmed within days if current trends continue.

Previously, only one or two young asylum seekers could hide in a single lorry. But more are forced to cram into these small boats which often have up to 20 people in them.

Kent County Council has to pay for young asylum seekers to live in rented homes and for social workers to visit.

Kent has a legal obligation to look after the children who land in the county – whereas authorities across the country take in adult migrants.

Officials in the county could then look after them until they are 25.

Children under the age of 16 will be taken in by a foster family, “preferably in Kent, though that has been proving more difficult as time has gone on”, and those between 16 and 18 will be sent to a reception centre specifically for asylum seekers.

Kent County Council has to pay for young asylum seekers to live in rented homes and for social workers to visit

Kent County Council has to pay for young asylum seekers to live in rented homes and for social workers to visit (Image: Getty)

So many children are making the crossing, they are having to share rooms with strangers.

Some teenagers will have en-suite bathrooms while others will have to share.

Those closer to 18-years-old will live in shared houses together.

Asked how long the council will be able to cope if this trend continues, Councillor Sue Chandler admitted: “Two days at the current rate.

“It is extremely concerning. We are already talking to other local authorities for emergency help and asking the ministers ‘what are you going to do.

“We have done that once. We are going to do it again.

“It started to pick up last Summer and has really escalated this year.

“The number of young people coming across from France, we haven’t seen since 2015 and the pressure that is putting on our services is really quite severe.

“We have had 400 this week, we have had 53 in the last week and in the last 24 hours, we have had another 15.

“We are running out of accommodation spaces and social care.

“In terms of providing accommodation, you can’t suddenly find that type of accommodation which is appropriate and the right kind of standards for young people.”

Councillor Chandler admitted it costs a “small fortune” to look after such vast numbers of unaccompanied migrant children but could not specify how much.

The Tory politician said 90 children and young people have been sent to other areas of the country because Kent County Council is struggling to cope.

But councils are only taking two or three children each, with several willing to take on up to 10, under the National Transfer Scheme.

The Tory politician added: “There is quite a long list of authorities who have made the gesture, but in the context of our problem, it is quite a small problem.

“The most effective solution is to stop the boats leaving France in the first place.

“Before, it was young people coming in lorries. This route is proving to be very effective.

“The National Transfer Scheme hasn’t been particularly effective. We have had some offers in the last month. But that is only a small proportion.

“The weather has very much been in their favour. The seas have been so calm. We need to stop the boats coming. If we can’t stop the boats coming, we need a mandated transfer scheme very very quickly.

“Undoubtedly, there will be solution, and I hope that solution is found very soon. That will have to include help from other local authorities.”

The scheme currently allows local authorities to sign up to accept unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) dispersed from local authorities which receive high numbers of migrant children in their care.

The scheme was launched in 2016 in a bid to relieve pressure on councils such as Kent and Croydon which are supporting high numbers of UASC, largely due to transport links and geographical placement.

The government announced a funding boost for the scheme in June which will see local authorities receive £240 per person, per week.

Councillor Chandler admitted some will be fleeing from wars, while others will have chosen to make the crossing because they see it as a better future.

She said the most common nationality of children arriving in Kent this year was Iranians, Afghans, Iraqis, Sudanese and Eritreans.

Ms Chandler added: “We are seeing girls as well now.”

Kent County Council will also provide youngsters who arrive in the county with an education.

Ms Chandler said: “We have a particularly good service which is called ‘Virtual School Kent’ and a lot of work is done through that for these people.

“As most of them are 17 or 18, putting them straight into local schools is not going to be the best solution for anybody to be honest.

“We provide for these young people extremely well. It is not just about where they live, it will be about their education and their individual needs, for example the trauma they have experienced.

“But it’s not about the quality of the service that we provide. It is the sheer scale of the numbers.

“Some of these children will have experienced trauma and that will remain with them.

“Some of them will have chosen to make the journey because they see it as the best future. But sadly there people who are willing to relieve them of their money to make that happen.”


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