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Rwanda plan for asylum seekers does not tackle problem of children arriving on their own says Kent County Council leader

The leader of Kent County Council says government plans to send would-be asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlikely to ease the pressures on the council caused by children arriving in Kent on their own.

The government’s plans have provoked a barrage of criticism from refugee charities and voluntary groups and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby described them as ‘ungodly’ in his Easter sermon.

KCC leader Cllr Roger Gough
KCC leader Cllr Roger Gough

KCC leader Cllr Roger Gough (Con) said the plans would do little to tackle the county’s key issue of dealing with unaccompanied asylum seeker children arriving in Kent.

He added: “One of the big issues we have had in Kent is with unaccompanied minors and so far as I can see, they are not captured by this process.”

Asked if it was morally right to send potential asylum seekers so far away to have their claims assessed, he said: “Inevitably, a lot of us would be concerned as to what that means.

"At the same time, if anything brings about a reduction in cross-Channel movements, it would be very much widely welcomed by Kent communities.

"If that does take place, then clearly the government would need to ensure the processes of assessing asylum seekers’ claims take place quickly.

People seeking asylum, including a child, at Dymchurch
People seeking asylum, including a child, at Dymchurch

"I think you would need that to ensure that [the policy] was an acceptable one.

"One of the problems we have had in recent years is that the process has not been a quick one – if anything, it has tended to slow.”

Recent figures have pointed to a rising number of children arriving in the county.

A total of 108 youngsters arrived on Kent coastlines in January 2022, the highest levels experienced in the last seven years.

KCC has twice formally declared that it did not have the capacity to deal with the numbers of young children arriving in Kent.

RNLI crews rescue a group from a dinghy. Picture: RNLI
RNLI crews rescue a group from a dinghy. Picture: RNLI

In June last year, it said it was no longer able to accept any more unaccompanied asylum-seeking children as it has reached "the limit of safe capacity".

It led effectively to the council relinquishing its duty to care for vulnerable youngsters until September, when it resumed the role.

More than 28,300 people crossed the Dover Strait on small vessels in 2021, three times the number for 2020.

It comes amid an increase in the number of refugees coming to England from war-torn countries in Europe and the Middle East, such as Ukraine and Afghanistan.

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