Home   News   Opinion   Article

Opinion: Housing unaccompanied asylum seeker children, poverty cliches and the national anthem debated in letters to the KentOnline editor

Our readers from across the county give their weekly take on the biggest issues impacting Kent and beyond.

Some letters refer to past correspondence which can be found by clicking here. Join the debate by emailing letters@thekmgroup.co.uk

We have a duty to house lone asylum seeker children, says one correspondent. Library image
We have a duty to house lone asylum seeker children, says one correspondent. Library image

We have a duty to house children

Kent has been in the news with KCC’s announcement that its accommodation for lone child asylum seekers seeking help will run out by the end of this month.

We are talking here about children who have been separated from their parents and have arrived on the Kent coast in small boats, frightened, traumatised and most importantly, completely on their own.

Most of them are boys between the ages of 14 and 17, with many of them making the 3,000-mile trip from the Sudan, an African state facing political instability following years of civil war, where children, in particular, are at risk.

KCC has a legal duty under the Children Act to take these children into care on their arrival in Britain.

The trouble is, that because of its long Channel coastline, Kent is under disproportionate pressure to look after them compared with other local authorities.

It is true to say that under the National Transfer scheme, many children are moved to other parts of the country, but because of the high numbers involved, Kent is struggling to cope.

It is already accounting for 423 children with 77 of these awaiting transfer to other local authorities.

As from last year, Kent and other authorities were banned by the High Court from placing these children in hotels on the south coast with the attendant danger of them falling into the hands of traffickers with the possibility of being forced into domestic servitude, sexual exploitation and other forms of forced labour.

This goes some way to explain why, between 2021 and 2023, of the 440 who went missing from these hotels, 132 were subsequently not found.

Kent can still legally place unaccompanied children in hotels in “true emergency situations” and it wouldn’t surprise me if that is what it will be forced to do this summer, if the number of new arrivals overwhelm it.

Whatever feelings people have about people arriving in small boats, all but the hardest of hearts must agree that we should do our best to help these lone children.

I’m reminded of the example of Nicholas Winton, who in 1939, helped over 600 Jewish children who travelled by rail and boat and arrived alone in Britain fleeing from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.

As individual citizens we can’t do much, but we can encourage KCC, other local authorities and the Home Office to emulate Winton’s example.

Namely, double up their efforts, work together as quickly as possible and plan to safely accommodate these children asylum seekers, with all authorities equally pulling their weight and doing their bit.

Then, hopefully, we will be able to congratulate them that, in doing so, they had reflected one strand of what being British is all about, namely, they swiftly showed compassion to helpless children in the direst of need.

John Cooper

Don’t trust them with economy

Listening to Darren Jones, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, vilifying the Conservatives over the state of the economy on BBC Breakfast, I couldn’t help but think what short memories politicians have.

No Labour government since the Second World War has left the country with a stable economy.

Indeed when the last one – led by Gordon Brown – left a note on the desk of the incoming coalition’s Chief Secretary to say “there was nothing left in the kitty”, the country was bankrupt!

Also remember that Gordon Brown was the man who as Chancellor sold off almost 50 tons of our gold reserves at rock-bottom prices for £2.5 billion.

If he not done so, just a few years later the value of that gold would have been more than £17 billion.

Also the New Labour government of 1997-2010 didn’t have to deal with the Covid pandemic, the biggest war in Europe since 1945 and Brexit.

Appalled as I am at the persistent in-fighting and back-stabbing that has plagued the last 14 years of Tory government, it would be economic suicide to hand the reins of power to Starmer, Rayner, Reeves, Cooper, Miliband et al.

Labour just cannot be trusted with the economy.

Bob Readman

Editor’s comment: The note was left as a personal joke by Labour’s Liam Byrne for Tory Philip Hammond who was expected to replace him as chief secretary. However, in the coalition agreement which followed the 2010 election, it was agreed that Lib Dem David Laws would take the role instead. He didn’t understand the note was a joke not meant for him and publicised its contents. In 1964 Tory Reginald Maudling left his Labour successor James Callaghan a missive saying: “Good luck, old cock...sorry to leave it in such a mess.” Mr Laws has subsequently apologised to Mr Byrne.

Nothing wrong with anthem

How dare your correspondent M Smith pour scorn on our lovely national anthem.

It is stirring and played or sung at a moderate pace and is uplifting.

Jerusalem is an allegorical poem written by a mad, metaphysical poet and is hardly a national anthem, as it excludes the other countries which make up the United Kingdom.

I wonder how the Welsh contingent at a large gathering of WI members feel when hundreds of tweed-clad, brogue-shod members belt out Jerusalem with its reference only to England.

As for Land of Hope and Glory, well hardly ‘mother of the free’ since we can be arrested for ‘misgendering’ and freedom of speech is an endangered concept.

Also, it is difficult to sing and again, seems to refer only to England.

Leave these songs to the Proms and let us ask God to Save our King – the monarch of the United Kingdom, not just England.

Miss V Hemsley-Flint

Unemployment is on the rise. Library image
Unemployment is on the rise. Library image

Stop the cliches about the poor

Sid Anning still seems to agree that all benefit claimants are scroungers.

I remember this old chestnut from the Thatcher years. She closed pits and steelworks, throwing hundreds of thousands onto benefits.

Then all those thrown on the human scrapheap were classed as scroungers.

So much so that government minister Edwina Curry went on TV suggesting benefit claiments were spending it on wide-screen TVs.

Most people saw through that blatant gaslighting but some still insist benefits are easy to obtain and live on.

Yes, they must be, when even people in work have to claim universal credit to survive.

I would say that mindset was wrong back then and it’s wrong now.

Cyril Latham

More to this than simple poverty

How do you define poverty? Is poverty not having a 50-inch television hanging on your wall, a nice car parked in the street, or having mobile phones? Because that’s how some would define it.

But I have seen real in-your-face poverty while in the Navy and saw people eating the waste food we threw over the ship’s side into the harbour in Hong Kong.

However, I hear this word being bandied about all too often, even though I do concede there are some genuine cases, no doubt.

But let’s be honest about this – even if those on benefits may struggle at times, I wouldn’t call it poverty, but simply a case of bad management of the money available and cutting your cloth to suit. I read the story about a teacher who stated some children are coming to school hungry and not having breakfast, or their clothes are so dirty the teacher washed them.

Worse still, very young children are coming to school with dirty nappies.

Now come on, that is not poverty but bad parenting and those responsible should hang their heads in shame.

My mother would rather have been seen dead than to send us to school like that.

Yes, we had patches in our trousers, and our socks darned, but we were always clean and there is no excuse for it otherwise.

Let’s be honest: a large bag of porridge oats costs very little, or a big box of cornflakes the same, and there is no need for children to go to school hungry in this day and age.

Let’s have some facts shall we?

I’m 80 years old and my mother brought four of us boys up before, during, and after the war, even with rationing and a pitiful amount of money, but we never went without a hot meal in our stomachs.

Sometimes I saw my mother eating bread and butter as there was not enough to go around, but even then it wasn’t ‘poverty’ but simply good management from my parents and they never borrowed or lent any money through the whole of their lives.

We were one of the last in the area to get a minuscule black and white television, and I didn’t get a bike till I went to senior school and had to ride the three miles there and back to have my dinner that mother provided after doing the washing and cleaning for six people.

Please, spare me the rhetoric that things today are harder than what we experienced because if you have not lived in those days you wouldn’t know.

There were no food banks to fall upon, and to be honest they are self-perpetuating, whereby people are using them as a backstop rather than sorting out their finances.

The policy in my parents’ day was if you could not afford it you simply went without and the modern generations have got to learn likewise as there is no such thing as a free lunch as someone has to pay for it.

Sid Anning

Remember who the villains are

Just as you can’t pour a quart into a pint jug it is likewise impossible to find work for the 9.25m economically inactive if there are only 900,000 job vacancies available (Sid Anning please note).

That’s because there are more people than jobs, a situation much exacerbated by record migration levels.

And the true inactivity rate is even worse given the sharp rise in the numbers of part-time and self-employed workers, which mask the figures.

Not to mention underemployment of those in full-time work. This is nothing new.

This country still suffers from the wanton destruction of UK manufacturing wrought by that dreadful Thatcher government (which subsequent administrations - including ‘Labour’ ones - slavishly followed).

Manufacturing is the basis of all wealth. When we were the ‘workshop of the world’ we were the richest and most powerful country on the planet.

Now hardly anything is made here at all – or if it, it’s probably owned by some faceless foreign outfit.

And let’s not forget some politicians actually think mass unemployment is a good thing.

Remember Tory Chancellor Norman Lamont’s infamous words – “Rising unemployment and the recession have been the price that we've had to pay to get inflation down. That is a price well worth paying.”

That price was paid by millions of ordinary workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own, not by the politicians who caused the problem.

So blame the real villains not the victims next time, Mr Anning.

John Helm

This just can’t be justified can it?

So how can the Home Secretary James Cleverley justify spending taxpayers’ money on a day trip to Rwanda by private jet at a cost of nearly £166,000?

Maybe he thinks it’s mere chickenfeed, since the Government is planning to spend £1.8m on each of the first 300 asylum seekers it wants to send to Rwanda.

Currently, the overall cost of the scheme is more than half a billion pounds, according to the National Audit Office.

Even if the UK sends nobody to Rwanda, the Government has signed up to pay £370m from the public purse over the five-year deal.

With child poverty in the UK having reached a record high last year, and 4.3 million children now ‘facing cold homes and empty tummies’, and nearly 150,000 living in temporary accommodation, I am sure we can all think of better ways for our mone to be spent.

Frances Kneller, Liberal Democrats

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More