MP calls for government to help child refugees 'nearer their homes' to discourage 'lethal' journeys to Kent
PUBLISHED: 15:32 02 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:32 02 November 2017
It comes as KCC attempts to juggle a £4.5m overspend on caring for unaccompanied asylum seeking children
The government should spend more money helping Middle Eastern child refugees “nearer their homes” to discourage “long and sometimes lethal” journeys to Kent, an MP has claimed.
In 2015, huge numbers of unaccompanied asylum seeking children arrived in the county through Eurotunnel and the Port of Dover during the migrant crisis from the camp known as the ‘Jungle’ in the French port town of Calais, after making their way across the Mediterranean.
Under the Children Act 1989, it is the legal responsibility of Kent County Council to care for under-18s who arrive in the county from abroad, but the influx has placed extreme pressure on the local authority’s resources.
Indeed only this week council chiefs met immigration minister Brandon Lewis to press for more funding, after revealing an overspend in its budget of some £4.5m.
Gravesham MP Adam Holloway called for the government to prioritise spending in Syria and other war-torn countries, rather than on accommodating the children in Kent.
Speaking in a debate on Calais and unaccompanied child refugees in Europe, he said: “There are millions of people in the Middle East who are refugees and who need as much help as we can give.
“We cannot settle them all in the UK. We must do what we can for the many.
“In taking such young people, we’re spending vast amounts of money that could much more effectively help children in their own regions, and we’re also creating pull factors to dispatch young people on these long and sometimes lethal journeys.
“Here, council foster places are already oversubscribed, the amount of money spent on each child is enormous. I’m not saying there aren’t cases where we should do it, I’m just saying we should think about where we spend this money.
“We should spend money to look after people nearer their own homes. We must do what is right and not just what makes us feel good.
“If we’re really going to help those who most need our help, we’ll help more people by helping them outside our borders and stopping these immoral pull factors.
“We should be helping the many, not pulling in the few.”
Dover MP Charlie Elphicke also spoke of the need to ease the pressure on the county’s resources.
He said: “We have about a quarter of the unaccompanied asylum seeking children in the whole of this country and they are concerned about the pressure on public services that places on Kent.
“They are concerned that public services are then constrained in providing for other residents of Kent.
“That is why it’s so important we maintain a sense of balance and fairness and that if we’re going to be there to care, to look after to bring forward these poor children, then it is right that other councils are encouraged to do their bit to ensure children are spread across the whole country and not left with the burden falling disproportionately on places like Kent.”