Senior councillors will visit the ‘Calais jungle’ migrant camp tomorrow as part of a trip aimed at considering measures to keep unaccompanied children and young people safe.
The Local Government Association (LGA) delegation will also meet with the mayor of Calais to further cooperation between English and French local authorities in tackling the refugee crisis.
The number of lone children claiming asylum and coming into the care of councils after their arrival in the UK stands at over 4,000. Kent alone has taken in around 840 under-18s and more than 500 over the age of 18.
The LGA has called on the French authorities to speed up the processing of lone child asylum seekers in the Calais refugee camp and settle them in new homes or reunite them with their families.
‘It is imperative that children are kept safe wherever they currently are across Europe,’ chairman of the LGA’s Asylum, Refugee and Migration Task Group Cllr David Simmonds said.
‘Many children will require care and support packages directly from councils or their partners if they are not able to be relocated with existing family in Europe or the UK.
‘If children do come to the UK, councils want to get it right so that children who have experienced horrendous conditions within and since fleeing their country of origin are able to settle into UK life as quickly and easily as possible with ongoing support made available when they need it.’
‘Ideally, councils will work alongside government and their partners to assess children and agree their needs before they enter the UK,’ he added.
Cllr Simmonds also called for more national coordination to ensure members of the public who wish to foster Syrian children are directed to their local council.
‘Councils rely heavily on foster carers to support many of the vulnerable children in their care and children’s services departments have witnessed a significant shortage of carers across the country in recent years,’ he said.
‘Since the plight of Syrian refugees hit the media last year, there has been an outpouring of sentiment shown by the British public. This needs to turn into practical help. National co-ordination is essential to share intelligence around foster care capacity.’
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