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Unaccompanied child asylum seekers reaches three-year high for Kent

The number of unaccompanied child asylum seekers in Kent has risen to a three-year high, according to Kent County Council.

Social services chiefs say the increase is largely related to unrest in countries like Syria, Libya, Iran and Eritrea.

The number of child asylum seekers under 18 the authority is looking after is 331, compared with 215 at the same point in 2011, representing a 53% increase.

A child refugee. Stock image
A child refugee. Stock image

Overall, KCC was looking after 732 child asylum seekers in September compared with 646 at the same point last year when those over the age of 18 are included.

The increase is above the number anticipated and KCC says it is struggling to find enough foster parents to help.

While the government meets some of the costs associated with child asylumseekers, once they reach the age of 18, the county council that picks up all the costs.

Cllr Peter Oakford, KCC cabinet member for social care, said: “This is not a new phenomenon and has been going on for years.

"A lot have no documents and you never know whether they are children or adults. They are entitled to the same level of care as any other child.

Tthe arrests were made at the Port of Dover
Tthe arrests were made at the Port of Dover

"The problem we have is that as soon as they reach the age of 18, they become the responsibilty of Kent County Council.”

He added: “The government grant is a contribution but does not cover the costs.”

The county council is eligible for a government grant of £150 per child each week - but says its actual costs are £274 a week.

The UK Border Agency is supposed to remove those over the age of 18 who have exhausted the appeals process but KCC says this has not happened as quickly as originally planned.

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