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Vulnerable asylum seeking children arriving on small boats are being held in a Border Force processing centre following Kent’s council reached ability, prompting fears of a “disaster”.
Large numbers of children reaching the UK have led to a “unthinkable” situation in which Kent County Council says it “can’t safely accommodate any more new arrivals”.
Those currently arriving are held by Border Force in a processing center, where asylum seekers are often interviewed by officers, until homes can be found for them in other areas.
Charities stated that they were “extremely concerned” and fear that the children are being hauled in “prison-like facilities”. They also state they do not know whether the children are being safeguarded or whether they have access to education, social workers or legal services.
A Home Office source could only say that the children would be held in the so-called Kent Intake Unit (KIU) for “as short a period as possible” and did not state whether they were receiving any access to services.
Bridget Chapman, of this Kent Refugee Action Network, said home secretary Priti Patel needed “neglected to manage the scenario ”, rather making “completely inappropriate” comments about sending the Navy to intercept modest boats where the children perilously cross the Channel, and contending with a ice cream firm over the issue.
Chapman also stated she had “all sorts of concerns” roughly Border Force being accountable for the children, who like asylum seekers claim they are fleeing war or persecution.
She told HuffPost UK: “These are children, they need to be looked after by a local authority that has the skillset to look after them.
“This ’s no disrespect to the border jurisdiction but the border jurisdiction does not have the skillset to look after children.
“I’ve all sorts of questions — are they allocated to social workers? Can they have access to authorized services? Will they be able to access education? What sort of accommodation will they be in? Is it appropriate? How will they be safeguarded?
“And of course it’s illegal to detain children for more than 24 hours how is this going to work?
“It appears to me it’s got disaster written all over it. ”
She moved on: “In our expertise children arrive almost every day so if now is average there will be some children spending the night in the care of Border Force tonight and I’m very concerned about that.
“We’ve had a situation before where there was a shortage of accommodation and adult people were retained in a very inappropriate building which was a concrete floor.
“I’m not suggesting for a minute Border Force are likely to do this to these children but where are they likely to be put and is it likely to be the appropriate location for them? ”
“They should be moved to local authority care as soon as you can, or even in Kent then everywhere. ”
Bella Sankey, manager of Detention Action, explained the situation as a “scandal” also stated it “should really be a source of deep shame with this administration ”.
She told PA: “This really is a political failure, pure and simple. The authorities must urgently U-turn and ensure that vulnerable children are instantly taken into care as opposed to detained in prison-like facilities.
“It is deeply worrying that this entirely preventable situation has happened.
“Rather than ensuring that unaccompanied child refugees are given essential support when they arrive in the united kingdom, the home secretary has spent the past couple of weeks trashing the UK’s proud record of helping the world’s most vulnerable and attempting to turn this situation into a Trumpian culture war.
“Priti Patel should show some ethical leadership and quit the playground politics. ”
Meetings involving the council and authorities are under way in a bid to discover a settlement today, the council stated.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “This is an unprecedented situation and people continue to work closely with the Department for Education and local authorities on supply for unaccompanied minors.
“Unaccompanied children arriving in Dover are being cared for from the Kent Intake Unit prior to being put in appropriate social services care. ”
The Home Office said the Kent Intake Unit is a “processing center ” in which people who arrive by little boat are taken, and refused descriptions of it as a detention location.
It told PA discussions are ongoing “in speed ” together with social services from other regional governments on board.