Child migrants will no longer be cared for by Kent Council as resources ‘exhausted’

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Kent County Council said 13 new arrivals in two days meant the authority had reached its capacity when it comes to housing and looking after under 18s, having taken in more than 400 so far this year. The huge numbers of children descending on the coastal county in recent weeks has led to a situation where the council says it “cannot safely accommodate any more new arrivals”.

Any minors who arrive in Kent in small boats will now be looked after by Border Force staff until suitable accommodation can be found by another council.

Council leader Roger Gough hit out at the Home Office, accusing the Government of failing to address an issue which “should have been resolved before now”.

Mr Gough said he felt “deeply disappointed” about the “unthinkable situation” which councillors were faced with.

He said: “This is a huge challenge for Kent, but a relatively small challenge to solve nationally, and should have been resolved before now.”

He added: “The stark reality today is that, despite my conversations with the Home Office alerting them that Kent expected to reach safe capacity to meet its statutory duty of care this weekend, 13 new arrivals in the last two days has now tipped the balance and the council simply cannot safely accommodate any more new arrivals at this time.”

The Home Office said unaccompanied migrant children would be cared for in the Kent Intake Unit at Dover, which it described as a processing centre.

Charities called the situation “deeply worrying” and “entirely preventable”, criticising Home Secretary Priti Patel’s actions in recent weeks.

The council has found homes for more than 1,500 unaccompanied minors since Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015.

At present there are 589 under 18s and 945 migrants aged between 18 and 25 in the council’s care.

Sue Chandler, Cabinet member for Integrated Children’s Services, said if each council across the UK took just two or three under 18s it would reduce the burden on Kent Council significantly.

A spokesman for the council said the authority’s resources had been “exhausted”.

Teams of social workers, independent reviewing officers and care workers had been pushed to the maximum, he said.

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On Tuesday the council said meetings with the Government were underway in an effort to find a resolution.

Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, described the situation as a “scandal” and said it “should be a source of deep shame for this Government”.

She summed it up as a “political failure – pure and simple”.

Ms Sankey added: “The Government must urgently U-turn and ensure that vulnerable children are immediately taken into care rather than detained in prison-like facilities.

“It is deeply worrying that this entirely preventable situation has occurred.

“Instead of ensuring that unaccompanied child refugees are provided with essential support when they arrive in the UK, the Home Secretary has spent the last few weeks trashing the UK’s proud record of helping the world’s most vulnerable and trying to turn this situation into a Trumpian culture war.”

Ms Sankey accused Ms Patel of engaging in “playground politics”.

The Home Secretary reportedly told Conservative MP colleagues that many migrants were making the perilous journey across the English Channel because they believed France was a “racist” country and feared being “tortured”.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “This is an unprecedented situation and we continue to work closely with the Department for Education and local government on provision for

unaccompanied minors.

“Unaccompanied children arriving in Dover are being cared for in the Kent Intake Unit before being placed in appropriate social services care.”

The spokesperson added it does not foresee any children remaining in Border Force care for very long.

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