Kent council considers creating ‘large’ home solely to look after unaccompanied child migrants – after becoming so overwhelmed it ran out of capacity to care for local youngsters
- In July, the High Court ruled local authorities were responsible for all children
- Kent County Council said it is struggling under the numbers of child migrants
A council said it may be forced to create a new children’s home solely to house unaccompanied minors crossing the Channel by small boat.
In July, the High Court ruled local authorities have a statutory duty to care for all children in their area, regardless of immigration status.
But last month, Kent County Council (KCC) revealed it is so overwhelmed by the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking (UAS) children on its books, it has run out of capacity to care for local youngsters.
Now it has been revealed the Council is considering creating a ‘large’ registered children’s home to look after migrants under the age of 16.
Some 221 migrants crossed the English Channel yesterday, the first to have made the crossing in more than a week
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Yesterday, 212 migrants arrived on three small boats having crossed the English Channel.
They were the first group to arrive in a week because of poor weather conditions in the Channel.
So far 24,208 people have arrived in the UK, compared with 45,774 last year.
Although this year’s running total is outstripping 2021 when 28,526 arrived on small boats.
In papers to councillors, KCC’s Legal Counsel, Ben Watts, said Sarah Hammond, the authority’s Director of Children’s Services (DCS), has been searching for suitable premises for this purpose.
In the Section 5 report for August, he wrote: ‘She has worked with the council’s infrastructure team who have undertaken an extensive search for land or premises in our area that may be used or repurposed for accommodating UAS children.
‘Work is ongoing to explore the feasibility of those sites.
‘The DCS is also exploring the creation of a large registered children’s home in Kent to provide temporary accommodation in-house to unaccompanied asylum seeking children aged under 16.’
More than 24,000 people have made the crossing in 2023 according to the Home Office
Speaking at a full council meeting last week, Ben reassured councillors that the authority is pressing for solutions to this issue.
He said: ‘Members and Officers are continuing to press for solutions on UASC/Kent children’s care issues for the short and long-term – both through the litigation and outside it – and will continue to do everything possible to return the Council to full statutory compliance.
READ MORE: More than 24,000 migrants have crossed the English Channel in 2023
‘Further reports and briefings will follow over the next few months to cover legal and operational developments.’
This comes after it was revealed on Monday (September 25), that 15 unaccompanied ‘child’ migrants in the care of KCC were found to be adults.
Between January 2022 and June this year, 23 migrants who identified themselves as ‘children’ had their ages reassessed because there was reason to doubt their claims, according to figures released by the authority under freedom of information laws. Of these, 15 were found to be adults.
It is understood smugglers are actively briefing Channel migrants to pretend to be under 16 when they arrive in the UK in a bid to receive ‘preferential treatment’, such as securing foster care accommodation.
And this is expected to become more common after the High Court ruled in July it is unlawful to house unaccompanied child migrants in hotels.
Following the ruling, a Home Office spokeswoman said they would be working with KCC and other local authorities to find suitable placements for unaccompanied children.
There are now growing concerns that adult migrants posing as children will take up valuable foster care places and put vulnerable young people at risk of exploitation.
Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover, is urging the government to introduce compulsory age checks for all migrants who claim to be children.
She said: ‘Grown men posing as children in our schools and children’s care homes puts kids at risk. Urgent action is needed for compulsory age checks on illegal migrants who claim to be children.’
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