William Eichler 27 July 2023

‘Systematic’ housing of child refugees in hotels unlawful

‘Systematic’ housing of child refugees in hotels unlawful image
Image: Alfa Net / Shutterstock.com.

Kent County Council has acted unlawfully by failing to accommodate and look after all unaccompanied children seeking asylum, the High Court has ruled.

The charity Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT) brought legal action against the council and the Home Office over the practice of housing refugee children in hotels.

Housing unaccompanied children in hotels is acceptable ‘over very short periods in true emergency situations’, according to the court. However, this power cannot be used ‘systematically or routinely’.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Chamberlain said that the use of hotels had become ‘systematic and routine’ and had become ‘an established part of the procedure for dealing with UAS [unaccompanied asylum-seeking] children.’

Mr Justice Chamberlain also said that Kent CC had accepted some children into care while ceasing to accept unaccompanied children seeking asylum, which was a violation of its duties under the Children Act 1989.

Earlier this month, Kent County Council warned that the number of UAS children in its care was putting a ‘wholly disproportionate’ strain on its children’s service.

A Home Office spokesperson said: 'The High Court has upheld that local authorities have a statutory duty to care for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. We have always maintained that the best place for unaccompanied children to be accommodated is within a local authority.

'However, due to the unsustainable rise in illegal Channel crossings, the government has had no option but to accommodate young people in hotels on a temporary basis while placements with local authorities are urgently found.

'In light of today’s judgment, we will continue to work with Kent County Council and local authorities across the UK to ensure suitable local authority placements are provided for unaccompanied children, in line with their duties.'

Kent County Council has been contacted for comment.

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