Calls for Devon to answer Kent’s call for help caring for child asylum-seekers

County Hall. Ref exe 04-17 5978. Picture: Terry Ife

County Hall. Ref exe 04-17 5978. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Calls have been made for Devon County Council to help care for child migrants amid a rise in the number arriving alone in Kent.

Kent County Council said it does not have the capacity for additional unaccompanied asylum-seeking children following the arrival of more than 400 children this year.

It said that responsibility lies across England to help out under the National Transfer Scheme which aims to create a more even distribution of caring responsibilities across the country.

Under the scheme, a child arriving in one local authority area which is already under strain caring for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children may be transferred to another council with capacity.

And Cllr Gordon Hook, Liberal Democrat councillor at Devon County Council, has suggested that Devon, if it can, offers Kent some help.

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He said: “If Kent County Council has reached capacity over the ability to accept any more refugee children, may I suggest that Devon County Council offers Kent some practical help with this humanitarian problem, if we are in a position to accept some children here in Devon, if only on a temporary basis?

“I believe this to be an extremely urgent issue and would like to think Devon could play a part in offering practical help in this crisis.”

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In response, a spokesman for Devon County Council said: “We are part of the government’s National Transfer Scheme which enables unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to move safely from the local authority they arrive in to another one.

“Through this scheme we supported a significant number of vulnerable children when the Calais refugee camps were closed in 2016, and we continue to accept referrals.”

More than 400 children, most of whom have been arriving in Dover across the English Channel in small boats, have entered the Kent council’s care so far this year.

Under 18s arriving in the county alone are passed into the care of the local authority, with a small number later transferred to other councils that volunteer to help.

Last week, Cllr Roger Gough, leader of Kent County Council, warned the Home Office his authority ‘expected to reach safe capacity to meet its statutory duty of care this weekend’.

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