Original article from Kent Live
Officials at Kent County Council say they have reached “breaking point” and will soon have to shut their doors to children arriving by boat because they can no longer be looked after safely.
Around 250 lone children, some as young as 12, have been smuggled in to the county across the Channel since the start of the year, including 50 over the recent Bank Holiday weekend.
It is also said to include growing numbers of unaccompanied girls, prompting fears that they could be forced into prostitution by criminal gangs.
The Times reports one Vietnamese girl who made the Channel crossing last weekend is already believed to have disappeared from a local reception centre.
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Matt Dunkley, Kent’s corporate director of children’s services, 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.”
Last month, Kent took in 115 child refugees, compared with 64 in May 2020.
Reports all suggest that the children arriving appear to be getting younger, with five 12-year-olds and five 13-year-olds among those who turned up without family in recent months.
More than double the number of people have crossed the Channel so far this year compared to last, with at least 4,349 people arriving
Unaccompanied children under 16 are normally placed with foster families in Kent, but demand is now said to be high that officials have had to start using care facilities in London instead.
KentLive uses the term people when referring to those who cross the Channel and arrive on our shores.
That's because, regardless of their status at the point of entry, those moving from one country to the other are human beings.
You will have seen them commonly referred to as migrants. This is not incorrect.
The UN Migration Agency defines a migrant as – any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a state away from his/her habitual place of residence, regardless of the person’s legal status, whether the movement is voluntary or involuntary, what the causes for the movement are, or what the length of the stay is.
KentLive also refers to people in these circumstances as refugees.
The UN definition of refugees is – people who are outside their country of origin for reasons of feared persecution, conflict, generalised violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order and, as a result, require international protection.
Those who are 16 or 17 are assessed in one of two reception centres — with a joint capacity of just over 100 beds — before frequently getting their own “assisted living” lodgings.
Kent County Council is now preparing to take legal action against the Home Office to ensure that the record numbers of unaccompanied child refugees crossing the Channel in small boats are routinely sent to other parts of the UK.
It is apparently considering bringing a judicial review against Priti Patel as early as this week to force the home secretary into dispersing new arrivals to local authorities across the rest of the country.
The Home Office began a consultation into a mandatory national transfer scheme for unaccompanied child refugees last autumn to take the burden off Kent.
However, the scheme has not been implemented and transfers take place on only a voluntary basis.
Last week the High Court ruled the Home Office had acted unlawfully by housing adult asylum seekers in “squalid” conditions at Napier Barracks Folkestone.
A huge COVID outbreak at the site led to hundreds of refugees becoming infected.