Blackpool Council has fourteen days to respond to request from the Home Office to urging the Council find suitable homes for some of the unaccompanied asylum seeker children who have arrived in the UK from across the English Channel. Because of the recent surge in numbers of unaccompanied children, Kent County Council and other Councils on the South East Coast are finding it impossible to continue to source appropriate accommodation. Blackpool is among 217 authorities nationwide, who all run social services departments, which have been written to by the Home Office urging them for urgent help.
Blackpool, which already has one of the highest rates of looked after children in the country with around 600 currently living in care, has fourteen days in which to respond to the letter.
The Home Office has said it will consider factors when transferring children to a local authority including the current child population, the number of supported asylum seekers and pressures on children’s services, and the best interests of the child. Any local authority receiving a child transferred under the scheme will receive a funding contribution at the higher rate of £143 per child per night.
A spokesperson for Blackpool Council has responded, ‘Just like all upper tier local authorities, we have received a letter from the Home Office and will be responding in due course.’
According to reports, more than 100 asylum seeker children are currently placed in hotels due to a shortage of accommodation in appropriate settings.
Added pressure is being put on the Home Office by law firms representing these young asylum seekers currently accommodated in hotels. Stuart Luke, a senior solicitor at InstaLaw, said unaccompanied minors in hotels were effectively imprisoned because they had been advised not to leave the premises. ‘They are de facto detained. We have so many young people who have been detained who now have legitimate claims for unlawful forced imprisonment.’ To exemplify, the solicitor said that his firm had received a referral for a 15-year-old unaccompanied minor who was held at a Kent hotel but officials had prevented him from assessing the child. ‘We went there and they refused us entry. They were detained and clearly weren’t being held in Children Act accommodation, they were in a hotel.’ When asked for the teenager to be brought outside, the officials refused. ‘They effectively denied them access to a lawyer, which clearly breaches their human rights.’ Ultimately, the solicitor did not meet the child and he told the Guardian that he had no idea what happened to them.