Kent County Council is looking to house unaccompanied asylum seeking children

Kent County Council wants to open a new children’s home because so many migrant children are arriving in the UK on their own.

The local authority is looking for a “large” site to house unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

In a paper to elected representatives, KCC’s Legal Counsel, Ben Watts, said Sarah Hammond, the authority’s Director of Children’s Services (DCS), wrote: “She has worked with the council’s infrastructure team who have undertaken an extensive search for land or premises in our area that may be used or repurposed for accommodating UAS children.

“Work is ongoing to explore the feasibility of those sites.

“The DCS is also exploring the creation of a large registered children’s home in Kent to provide temporary accommodation in-house to unaccompanied asylum seeking children aged under 16.”

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Speaking at a full council meeting last week, Mr Watts reassured councillors that the authority is pressing for solutions to this issue.

He said: “Members and Officers are continuing to press for solutions on UASC/Kent children’s care issues for the short and long-term – both through the litigation and outside it – and will continue to do everything possible to return the Council to full statutory compliance.

“Further reports and briefings will follow over the next few months to cover legal and operational developments.”It comes after it emerged that 15 unaccompanied “child” migrants in the care of KCC were found to be adults.

Between January 2022 and June this year, 23 migrants who identified themselves as ‘children’ had their ages reassessed because there was reason to doubt their claims, according to figures released by the authority under freedom of information laws. Of these, 15 were found to be adults.

It is understood smugglers are actively briefing Channel migrants to pretend to be under 16 when they arrive in the UK in a bid to receive ‘preferential treatment’, such as securing foster care accommodation.

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And this is expected to become more common after the High Court ruled in July it is unlawful to house unaccompanied child migrants in hotels. Following the ruling, a Home Office spokeswoman said they would be working with KCC and other local authorities to find suitable placements for unaccompanied children.

There are now growing concerns that adult migrants posing as children will take up valuable foster care places and put vulnerable young people at risk of exploitation.

Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover, is urging the government to introduce compulsory age checks for all migrants who claim to be children.

She said: “Grown men posing as children in our schools and children’s care homes puts kids at risk. Urgent action is needed for compulsory age checks on illegal migrants who claim to be children.”

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