Kent County Council is suing the Home Office over an escalating UK immigration crisis in the region. Council bosses are set to launch a judicial review amid a rising number of unaccompanied child asylum seekers being dumped in Kent, warning that the local authority in the county is at ‘breaking point’.
In recent months, hundreds of asylum seekers have been arriving in the ferry port town of Dover in Kent, many of which are traumatised, unaccompanied children arriving from countries plagued by war. Kent County Council officials are growing increasingly concerned that they will be unable to provide adequate care.
In particular, fears are mounting over children being more at risk of grooming, with some lone girls a potential target for prostitution. According to a report published by The Metro, a girl from Vietnam who was travelling alone recently arrived in Dover, but soon disappeared.
Share unaccompanied children
Kent County Council is now urging Home Secretary Priti Patel to ‘share unaccompanied child asylum seekers’ with other local authorities across the UK to ease the burden on Kent. Placing immigrant children arriving alone on UK shores with other councils has been proposed in the past.
Bosses at Kent County Council have said that unless the burden is shared, they will be forced to turn children away.
The corporate director of children’s services at Kent County Council, Matt Dunkley, said: “We are at breaking point. Underneath this there is a humanitarian crisis involving traumatised young people who deserve the best support, and we are being forced into a standoff with the government over their care and wellbeing.”
Hundreds of unaccompanied children arriving
According to the most recent data, 242 unaccompanied asylum seeking children have arrived in Britain in 2021, some of whom were just 12 years old. 52 of the 242 have been relocated to other council areas.
In May alone, 115 children arrived on UK shores, nearly double the amount that arrived in the same month in 2020.
In October 2020, tragedy struck when two children aged eight and five, who were travelling with two adults, died after the boat they were on capsized.
The Home Office recently confirmed that authorities in France had to deal with 130 people attempting to cross the Channel on the weekend of 5 June, while UK immigration officials dealt with 83 people.
In 2021 so far, the number of people attempting the dangerous journey across the Channel has more than doubled compared with the first six months of 2020. More than 3,100 people had reached UK shores by the end of May, according to official figures.
Cheating the system
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Those who attempt to cheat the system place an unjust burden on the taxpayer and prevent genuine asylum seekers from getting support. This is why the government is bringing forward the New Plan for UK Immigration. This will allow those most in need to be welcomed via safe and legal routes, while stopping abuse of the system.”
“We recognise the longstanding role that Kent County Council has played in supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children and are extremely grateful for their contribution. We continue to encourage more areas to join the National Transfer Scheme and do their part,” the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson went on to say that the Home Office has already consulted on how to improve the National Transfer Scheme to make it fairer. An update on the outcome of the consultation is ‘expected soon’.
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