Local leaders demand more action on child refugees

17 Aug 16

Senior local government figures have called for greater national co-ordination of support for unaccompanied children and young people who arrive in the UK ahead of a visit to the “Jungle” migrant camp in Calais.

A delegation from the Local Government Association will tomorrow visit the camp to consider how local government in England and France can support each other to keep unaccompanied children and young people safe.

David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s asylum, refugee and migration task group, said councils wanted to get it right so 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.

There has been an increase in the number of unaccompanied children migrants in the UK as part of the migration crisis, which has seen thousands of migrants arrive in Calais in order to try to get to the UK. The number of lone children claiming asylum and coming into the care of councils after their arrival in the UK now stands at over 4,000.

Simmonds highlighted this has led to many offers from the public to foster or otherwise support these children, but said these needed to be better coordinated across authorities.

“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,” he said.

“However, this has to be built on the understanding that the vast majority of unaccompanied asylum seeking children are not particularly young. In fact, in most cases, they are young people in their late teens, many of whom have experienced a great deal of trauma. For those unable to foster, councils can also use their help supporting new arrivals, such as mentoring or work experience, or people can volunteer with a local or national charity.”

Three members of the task group will visit the camp tomorrow and meet with the mayor of Calais. As well as Simmonds, who is the Conservative deputy leader of London Borough of Hillingdon, they are London Borough of Havering member Gillian Ford, who represents the East Havering Residents' Group, and Chris White, the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on St Albans Council and a Hertfordshire county councillor.


Did you enjoy this article?