Kent council ‘days away’ from reaching care capacity for migrant children

Kent County Council is just “days away” from being unable to look after more asylum seeking children arriving on its shores, its leader fears.

Roger Gough said about 420 unaccompanied migrant children had arrived in Kent this year, with more than 70 arriving so far this month.

Speaking to the PA news agency, the local authority leader said arrivals in August could now exceed 100 – a monthly figure not seen since the last major migrant crisis in 2015.

While adult migrants and families landing on Kent’s shores are sent to other parts of the country, the council retains responsibility for unaccompanied children, Mr Gough said.

Despite the number of child reception centres in Kent increasing from one at the start of the year to three, they were filling up “very, very fast”, he added.

Mr Gough told PA: “One (centre) which we actually emptied last week and which we reopened on Saturday, we are now almost full already. So this is the pace at which events are moving.

“The real question is what we can do to sustain that reception for those young people if the arrivals continue at the rate they do and we are unable to place those children with other local authorities.

“I think we are now potentially days away, depending on the rate of arrivals, from turning around and having to say we cannot deliver all our statutory responsibilities and that is going to be a major step for the council.”

The unaccompanied children who arrive in Kent remain in the council’s care system “for quite a number of years”, Mr Gough said.

This puts additional pressure on the council’s wider children’s social services, who are also responsible for looking after young people local to Kent, he said.

The number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children that have come into the council’s care so far this year was greater than the whole of 2019, with up to 80 arriving every four weeks over the past few months.

More than 4,000 migrants have made it into the UK so far this year after completing the dangerous voyage across the English Channel, with at least 597 arriving between Thursday and Sunday.