Talks to resolve asylum seeker crisis

By Ruth Smith

| 11 December 2007

A crisis meeting about unaccompanied asylum seeking children was set to take place at the Home Office yesterday (11 December).

Asylum seeking children. Credit: Alex Deverill

Local authorities and children's charities are at loggerheads with the Home Office because of a continued failure to resolve tension between immigration and children's policy.

Yesterday, Home Office officials were expected to give stakeholders a preliminary response to its consultation Planning Better Outcomes and Support for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children. This includes plans to move young asylum seekers to specialist local authorities to reduce the strain on port-of-entry authorities such as Kent and Hillingdon.

But CYP Now understands that although a handful of local authorities are interested in taking on this specialist role, disagreements about funding and the treatment of care leavers have created a deadlock. Under existing plans unaccompanied asylum seekers would not be entitled to the same support as other looked-after children who leave care.

A senior local authority source said: "We need resources to fulfil our statutory responsibilities, not this conflict in legislation. We need to be sure what we do is the law of the land and is consistent with our responsibilities under the Children Act 1989."

Manchester City Council took part in the successful Safe Care Transfer Pilot, which saw young asylum-seekers transferred to the North West from Kent. But Barbara Donovan, the council's regional strategic manager for migrant children, said: "We would have continued and expanded the pilot, but we didn't because of the financial risks and our leaving care responsibilities."

Lisa Nandy, policy adviser at The Children's Society, said: "The adult dispersal system ran into huge problems because the infrastructure was not there. We haven't seen anything that says what services will be there (in the receiving local authorities). We are expecting that dialogue at the meeting."

She added: "We hope the plans the Home Office set out for this group of children accord with the expectations set in the white paper Care Matters."

- Additional reporting by Asha Goveas.

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