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21.04.16

Councils need clarification on funding for national child asylum seeker scheme – LGA

The government need to work with councils and clarify the long-term funding for a scheme intended to ensure unaccompanied child asylum seekers are fairly dispersed to different local authorities, the LGA has said.

James Brokenshire MP, minister for immigration, appeared in front of the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee inquiry into unaccompanied minors in the EU yesterday, where he said that new measures in the Immigration Bill will allow the government to ensure local authorities take a fair share of unaccompanied children.

He added that although the measures are intended to be voluntary, they give the government power to compel councils to take in the children if necessary.

Brokenshire said the measures “will, I hope, relieve some of those pressures and see a more equitable distribution of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to local authorities”.

He said that 2015 figures show there are currently 3,043 unaccompanied minors applying for asylum in the UK, marking a 56% increase from 2014 and representing 9% of total asylum applications.

The greatest number of child asylum seekers came from Eritrea, Afghanistan, Albania and Iran, and 2,755 of the applications were from boys, 275 were from girls and 13 were unspecified.

Child asylum seekers are at the moment concentrated in the areas nearest to the ports, with Kent experiencing a nearly threefold increase last year and having to place some children in neighbouring councils’ homes.

The LGA has also called for a national agency and more funding to ensure a fair dispersal of child asylum seekers.

Cllr David Simmons, chair of the LGA’s asylum, refugee and migration task group, cautiously welcomed the proposals, saying: “We have long argued that placements for unaccompanied children need to be carefully planned at a national level to ensure that there is sufficient funding, care placements and support services available, and this simply isn't the case while a small number of councils are left to look after large numbers of refugee children.”

However, he expressed concern about how the scheme is to be funded. Brokenshire said he had written to councils last week setting out the funding for accepting unaccompanied minors, but only specified the amount until July.

Cllr Simmons said: “No council should be made to choose between supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children and providing vital services for their local community, and these outstanding questions must be resolved as soon as possible.

“If any increased resettlement programme is to be introduced alongside these existing pressures, it must be phased in over time and planned in full partnership with councils to ensure that services are able to cope with this additional demand. Any new scheme would also need to be aligned, and funded, alongside existing schemes for resettling refugees and unaccompanied asylum seeking children to ensure there is sufficient capacity to support vulnerable people.”

A recent Home Affairs Select Committee report said local authorities must do more to support asylum seekers.

(Image c. Muhammed Muheisen from AP/ Press Association Images)

 

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