There has been a 62% increase in the number of unaccompanied children seeking asylum being looked after by councils in the past year, new figures have revealed.
A freedom of information request by the BBC found at least 104 councils have reported a rise in the number of unaccompanied minors they are caring for.
The figures show Kent County Council is caring for one in five lone children seeking asylum, with Croydon Council looking after the second largest amount of these children.
The figures show that the largest group being cared for are boys aged 16 and 17, from countries such as Afghanistan or Eritrea.
The figures come as children’s charity Unicef said that although 88,265 asylum claims were made by unaccompanied children in the European Union in 2015, the UK only received 3.4% of these.
‘Children on the move are at risk of the worst forms of abuse and harm and can easily fall victim to traffickers and other criminals,’ said Lily Caprani, Unicef UK deputy executive director.
‘Many of these children wouldn't resort to such extreme measures if the UK Government made them aware that they may have a legal right to come to the UK safely and if they provided the resources to make that process happen before these terrible journeys begin.’
Unicef is calling on the UK Government to offer more resettlement places to refugee children facing dangers and do more to ensure that refugee children stranded in Europe can reach their families in the UK.
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