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Home Kent News Article
by political editor Paul Francis
Kent County Council is set to take the Home Office to court in a bid to recover millions of pounds it is spending looking after young asylum seekers who should no longer be in the UK.
The prospect of legal action in the High Court comes amid concerns the county council is out of pocket when it comes to looking after those who have been told to leave after unsuccessfully appealing to stay in the country.
It comes a day after we reported how an Afghan teenager who fears he will be killed if deported won an 11-hour reprieve.
Social services support about 117 young adults who are over the age of 18 and have been classified as having exhausted all rights to remain in the country.
KCC said it has no option but to do so because of its legal obligations under the Children's Act.
At the same time, it says the Home Office is failing to use its powers to pay for this and consequently KCC bears all the costs.
Council leaders say UK Border Agency has told it to consider making young adults destitute to avoid spending money. Social services chiefs say that would leave many turning to prostitution or being exploited.
KCC leader Paul Carter (Con) said: "We are between a rock and a hard place, with the Department for Education saying one thing and the Home Office saying another, namely that we should make them destitute.
"There is general agreement that the costs of supporting asylum seekers who have failed all rights of appeal should not fall on Kent council tax payers. It is clearly a national issue and there is conflict between the Home Office and the Children's Act."
He added: "We believe this is a government problem and a Home Office problem and they should be reimbursing the local authority. We are faced with a recurring £2m hole in our budget."
The council's chief lawyer, Geoff Willd, told county councillors KCC would be at risk if it decided not to look after those who had no rights to stay.
"Nobody wants the potential death or suicide [of an asylum seeker] who social services had been supporting," he said. "We are corporate parents here and have certain obligations to these young people and should not lose sight of that. If a death occurred, the authority itself could be at the end of a corporate manslaughter charge."
He added the Home Office had a duty either to deport failed asylum seekers or ensure councils got money to support them. "At the moment, they are doing neither of these things."
The Conservative cabinet agreed that KCC investigate options to take legal action against the Home Office.
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