There are grave concerns for the welfare of Afghan child refugees already arrived in the UK, according to The Guardian. There is no mention in the article of how many of those claiming to be children have been verified as such, with one hotel near Brighton said to be holding 70 minors. The article cites a 5-year-old boy who fell to his death from a hotel window in Sheffield, and whilst it is clear the child was not unaccompanied, the standard of accommodation was said to be inadequate.
Concerns raised in the article question whether children are being given the protection promised in the Children Act, which leaves us asking, are child migrants safer in the UK? There has to be an honest discussion on the grave concern in financially overstretched councils as to how they can accommodate more children and keep them safe whilst engaging in the complex age assessment and asylum system that accompanies them, a shortage of housing and an already failing children’s social care system.
Highlighting these concerns was recent action by Kent County Council refusing to accept any more unaccompanied child migrants after warning its services were at breaking point.
Kent stated the impossibility of meeting their statutory duty to keep children safe due to having nearly double the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. The council leader, Roger Gough, said Kent council had been put in an “unthinkable” position for the second time in less than 12 months and that services were overwhelmed.
“Reluctantly, from Monday 14 June, we will no longer be able to meet our statutory duty to safely care for the children we support and can therefore accept no further new UASC arrivals until sufficient transfers have been made outside of Kent bringing our numbers back to safe levels,” he said.
In light of Priti Patel’s, announcement on plans to relocate thousands of Afghan refugees to the UK, promising “everything possible to provide support” to ensure they could “integrate and thrive”. Questions have to be asked about how the UK will cope with the influx of non-age assessed child migrants who may flood the UK, adding to an already struggling system, amidst what is being described as a “complete breakdown” of child protection measures, in which the Home Office has breached its statutory responsibilities.
Philip Ishola, chief executive of the anti-child trafficking charity Love146, said
“It’s reasonable to say that one of our national departments [the Home Office] is choosing to neglect children, which is effectively child abuse. In any other situation, child protection services and police would be involved, and there’d be an intervention.
“It’s incomprehensible that the Home Office thinks that children’s legislation does not apply to them.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We take the safeguarding of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children extremely seriously and have measures in place to ensure their immediate safeguarding and welfare needs are met whilst we find them more appropriate long term care placements.”
They added that it was working closely with organisations including Barnardo’s and local charities allowed entry to ensure child refugees have support.