Number of lone child asylum-seekers in Britain soars by almost 50% in a year as councils struggle to cope

In the year to March, almost 2,000 unaccompanied children arrived in the UK claiming asylum, the highest figure for five years

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  • 1,986 unaccompanied children claimed asylum in the year to March 2015
  • Highest figure for five years after sharp rise on 1,356 seem in 2013-14
  • Council leaders warn of an 'enormous strain' on children's social services

 

The number of lone children applying for asylum in Britain has soared by almost 50 per cent in the last year.

As councils in the South East struggle to cope with the influx of youngsters from Calais, official data reveals the problem has been growing for months.

In the 12 months to March, almost 2,000 unaccompanied children arrived in the UK claiming asylum, the highest figure for five years with the figure expected to rise even further this year. 

Social workers across southern England have warned they are facing overwhelming pressure from the number unaccompanied migrant children.

Many of the youngsters, said to be traumatised and unable to speak English, are being held in special centres while long-term care is arranged.

Councils are responsible for all costs associated with child asylum seekers until they are 25.

Official Home Office data shows that there were a total of 1,986 asylum applications from migrants aged under 18 in the year ending in March.

This was an increase of 46 per cent compared with the previous year's tally of 1,356, and the claims represented 8 per cent of all asylum applications over the period.

 
Boys aged 16 and 17 made up more than half of the total in the last year, while just 237 were girls under the age of 18

Boys aged 16 and 17 made up more than half of the total in the last year, while just 237 were girls under the age of 18

UK RECEIVES SIXTH HIGHEST NUMBER OF ASYLUM CLAIMS IN EU

The UK receives the sixth largest number of asylum applications in the EU.

Last year, the UK received a total of 31,945 applications and approved around 44% of these.

Germany received the most, 202,815, followed by Sweden who received 81,325 and Italy, with 64,625.

On a per capita basis, the UK ranked 14th out of 28 EU countries last year, approving 217 asylum requests per million population.

Sweden topped the table granting 3,388 approvals per million population, followed by Malta, at 3,016, and Cyprus, 1,434.

The top five was completed by Denmark, with 1,019, and Bulgaria, 975.

The data compiled by the European Commission also revealed one in 20 asylum applications made to the UK last year were from unaccompanied minors. 

Boys aged 16 and 17 made up more than half of the total in the last year, while just 237 were girls under the age of 18.

In the first three months of this year, 35 UASC applications came from children aged under 14.

The rise of 46 per cent in the year to March 2015 was the biggest like-for-like increase for at least eight years.

Judith Dennis, of the charity Refugee Council, said: 'Globally, more children have been forced to flee their homes alone than at any other time since records began.

'The vast majority are fleeing brutal conflict and instability in Syria, Eritrea, Somalia and Afghanistan and many of them will have witnessed the death of a family member or have been abused themselves.

'A small proportion of these children have sought safety in Britain; arriving completely alone, bewildered and frightened, in a desperate quest for safety. The UK is right to look after them as we would other children who can't live in peace with their families.

'The Government must work closely with local authorities to ensure they are properly resourced in order to offer these vulnerable children the care they need to develop and begin to recover from their horrific experiences.'

It emerged last week that the number of young migrants in Kent County Council's care has risen sharply in the last three months, leaving it with a £5.5 million funding gap in care costs.

Over the fence: A child, clutching a toy, is led across the rail tracks at Calais towards a train by an adult

Over the fence: A child, clutching a toy, is led across the rail tracks at Calais towards a train by an adult

The local authority was supporting around 220 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children under the age of 18 in March last year, which rose to 368 in March this year. The figure stood at 629 on Friday.

County council leader Paul Carter said last week that the 'massive logistical exercise' of supporting those aged under 18 who make it to the UK is putting an 'enormous strain' on children's social services.

Alison O'Sullivan, president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services, warned that 'the situation in Kent is now critical'.

She added: 'There has been a gradual increase in numbers of unaccompanied asylum seeking children in the past few months and a spike in July has created an acute and immediate capacity issue for the council.'

 

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Staff Afeni
By Staff Afeni 03/08/2015 12:49:00