Kent County Council call to share refugee children 'burden'

Child at refugee camp in Greece Image copyright AP/Darko Vojinovic
Image caption About 830 unaccompanied children are being looked after in Kent

All councils should be responsible for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children under a national agreement, Kent County Council representatives have told a Lords committee.

The council's director of social care, health and wellbeing said Kent had seen a significant increase in numbers.

Andrew Ireland said the county had about 350 unaccompanied minors this time last year and now had about 830.

He said a national scheme was needed to avoid burdening one authority.

"If we see a significant increase in arrivals without a national scheme in place, it is going to place a huge burden on one particular local authority," he said.

Mr Ireland also told the home affairs sub-committee children as young as six had sought asylum in Britain.

"For the cohort that come through Kent, I'm often left to wonder... the number of countries that these young people have passed through, some of whom clearly are well under the age of 18," he said.

'Arrivals increase'

Mr Ireland said the increase in young people arriving had created "enormous pressure" in providing accommodation and placements.

He added: "My concern... is that we are at the beginning of the season where the number of arrivals traditionally starts to increase."

After the committee hearing, council leader Paul Carter said the authority also had a continuing duty of care to support those who had reached their 18th birthday, which brought the number nearer to 1,400.

"We're over saturation point," he said.

"We are hoping the government will introduce new regulation to give the powers to the secretary of state to have a national dispersal system."

He said other authorities would need to be reassured they would have adequate funding if there was to be a national dispersal system, which would need to be clarified by national government.

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