There are fears that unaccompanied child migrants arriving in Dover will be “detained” at a controversial facility, after Kent County Council announced it cannot take in any more.
Large numbers of migrant children travelling to the UK on small boats has led to a repeat of the “unthinkable” situation, where the council says its resources are “significantly overwhelmed”.
The announcement came as more people allegedly reached Dover on Monday morning. The high numbers of English Channel crossings in May and June look set continue.
No new resolution
On Thursday, Kent County council leader Roger Gough said he felt “profoundly saddened” at the situation around unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. This is the second time it has arisen in the last year.
#KCC Leader saddened to announce, “for the second time in a year, we have reached the limit of safe capacity for the care of unaccompanied #Asylum seeking children, and will take any action, including through the courts, to secure a fair & safe solution.”https://t.co/6yLRmK9uYP pic.twitter.com/ppsmgvyjZu
— Kent County Council (@Kent_cc) June 10, 2021
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Kent County Council confirmed on Sunday afternoon that it has not reached a new resolution with the Home Office and it would no longer be able to take in unaccompanied migrant children from Monday.
Children held for “far too long”
Any new unaccompanied asylum-seeking children will stay at the Home Office’s Kent Intake Unit (KIU) in Dover while they wait for a permanent place with another local authority, officials said.
This has led to fears over their possible “detention” at the KIU, which was among sites criticised by inspectors last year for holding children for “far too long and often overnight” – in one case for more than 66 hours.
The Home Office says unaccompanied migrant children are “always prioritised”, and that they stay at the KIU for as short a period as possible.
“Unthinkable” but “entirely predictable”
Reacting to the news, Bella Sankey, director of charity Detention Action, told the PA news agency:
It is of deep concern that the Home Office is going to start detaining traumatised refugee children at our border.
The Home Secretary (Priti Patel) has the statutory power to require local authorities to take responsibility for these children but she declines to bring it into force and to provide adequate funding, preferring instead to hold children – indefinitely – in a deeply inappropriate detention facility including with adult strangers.
We believe these detentions are unlawful and are currently exploring our options to challenge this practice.”
Sankey also tweeted:
1/2 This is significant. With KCC refusing to take children they will now be detained by the Home Office until another local authority steps forward.
It’s unthinkable – but entirely predictable – that this Government will start detaining lone refugee children. https://t.co/R3ltqEpwlJ
— Bella Sankey (@BellaSankey) June 11, 2021
A Home Office spokesperson said:
The Home Office is grateful for the role Kent County Council has played in supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and we have provided them with substantial operational support, including transferring those in need of support to other local authorities in the UK.
We recently announced vital updates to the National Transfer Scheme to alleviate pressures on certain areas and continue to work closely across Government on provision for unaccompanied minors.
The spokesperson added that recent updates to the scheme should distribute the responsibility for taking in unaccompanied migrant children more evenly across the UK.
The KIU was among sites HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) criticised last year, following a surprise visit.
They found that in one case a 15-year-old boy was held for more than 66 hours at the KIU. Records were not clear as to why this had happened.
Story and image via PA News Agency
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