I welcomed the decision by the Immigration Minister that he is now requiring other areas in the UK to take their share of unaccompanied children and young people crossing the Channel alone, relieving the severe pressures on Kent.
Along with fellow Kent MPs, I have been pressing the Home Office to act for many months. Kent has taken more unaccompanied children than any other area for years. The large increase in Channel crossings, including of unaccompanied young people, has contributed to a severe strain on Kent County Council throughout this year. I called on the Home Office to exercise its legal powers to make sharing of this responsibility compulsory, following the failure of a voluntary scheme implemented earlier this year.
I applaud the responsible and committed work carried out by Kent County Council, the leader Cllr Roger Gough and cabinet member Cllr Sue Chandler in supporting children and young people who arrive alone across the channel. The concern and support that they provide is a credit to the values and compassion of our whole community.
But the stark reality is that they can’t do it alone. The numbers of people arriving into the UK across the small boats route has caused strain and threatened to overwhelm services in Dover and Kent at points this year.
A voluntary scheme was tried earlier in the year. While some authorities stepped up to the plate, not enough were prepared to do their bit. The sharing of the responsibility for some of the most vulnerable who come into our country will enable those children and young people to be fully and appropriately supported right across the UK.