The worrying news comes after Kent County Council (KCC) admitted it could no longer safely accommodate them.
The council has be warning for some time that it was close to capacity. And now demand is sky high after a marked increase in boats crossing the Channel this year.
Many people undertaking the dangerous journey are fleeing persecution.
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Many of them are children, arriving in Dover by dinghy with no parents, guardians or relations.
But the cold, scary trip across the Channel is just one part of their journey.
And until recently they have been taken into the care of KCC. Now, in what one charity calls a “extremely concerning” move, they will instead be dealt with by Border Force – the law enforcement command within the Home Office.
‘Where are these children tonight?’
Hundreds of refugee children cared for in Kent are supported by the Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN), which provides help and support to asylum seekers.
Reacting to the announcement, Bridget Chapman, a caseworker for KRAN, said the children were being treated like criminals, not victims fleeing persecution.
“It is extraordinary,” she told KentLive, “these are children we are talking about.
“What we don’t understand is that you can only legally detain children for 24 hours and that’s in exceptional circumstances if accused of a serious crime.
“But these children have done nothing illegal and they are perfectly entitled to claim asylum.”
Bridget said many question marks have been left over the finer details of what now actually happens to unaccompanied minors when they come to Kent to seek asylum.
She explained: “We want to know what happens after 24 hours. Are they keeping them longer than 24 hours? And if so what the legality of that is.
“Where are they staying? Is it appropriate for children? How are they going to safeguard them? Will they have access to social workers or legal advice? None of these questions are being answered.
“People are arriving in Dover everyday. Many of them are children.
“We want to know, where are these children tonight? Who is looking after them?”
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‘They don’t have the skill set to safeguard children’
KCC has laid the blame for the situation at the currently discretionary National Transfer Scheme.
It says it is not fairly distributing the care of these young people across the UK.
This, it claims, has created an impossible strain on social care resources in the county, such as social workers, independent reviewing officers, care workers, foster carers, accommodation and funding.
In May 2020, council leader Roger Gough made a direct appeal for support to the Home Secretary Priti Patel.
But despite subsequent meetings with the Home Office, promised actions have not materialised.
“We’ve always said we think the Government needed to step up and help Kent more than they did,” said Bridget, “they weren’t funded properly.
“And when they did get the [national transfer] scheme going that wasn’t funded properly either, so naturally, it collapsed.
“It needs to be reinstated immediately so children can be transferred to a local authority, who are the appropriate people to be looking after them
“With all due respect to Border Force, they don’t have the skill set or the experience to safeguard children.
“They need to be looked after by qualified social workers. It’s not fair to the children and it’s not fair to Border Force either.
“At the end of the day they’re children and children need to be protected.”
A Home Office spokesman said:“This is an unprecedented situation and we have been working incredibly closely with Kent County Council to urgently address their concerns.
“We are also providing extra support with children’s services and we continue to work across the local government network on their provision for unaccompanied minors.”
In the wake of KCC’s announcement and in elevated national coverage of the refugee crisis, KRAN has set up a fundraiser to support those seeking asylum in the UK.
Bridget said a lot of media attention on Channel crossings had become increasingly “toxic” and they wanted to “turn this around and use the opportunity of all this attention to raise money to support the amazing young people that we work for.”
She added: “We hear from a very vocal minority of people who are anti-immigration.
“But they don’t represent the quiet majority and we wanted to give them the chance to do something to show their support in our crowdfunder.
“This is particularly important right now as the numbers of young people arriving are rising and our services are stretched. This money will help us expand our provision and ensure that we can work with as many young people as possible.”
Despite only being set up on Friday (August 14) KRAN’s crowdfunder has already raised £6,500.
It is well on its way to hitting its £10,000 target.
Explaining how the charity uses the money donated, Bridget said: “We can never replace their families, but we try to give them the help and advice that we would all want our own kids to receive if they had been forced to flee.
“Our aim is to support these incredible young people to lead happy and healthy lives within our communities and to put everything we can in place to help them achieve their ambitions.”
KRAN works in three main ways. First it has an education project that teaches English and life skills. Young people of 16 and 17 are often placed in independent living which means they have to look after themselves and they offer lessons in skills such as cooking, budgeting and basic numeracy.
“Our aim is to support young people to look after themselves well,” said Bridget.
“We work with local education providers to ensure them a place in statutory education as soon as possible. We also run a mentoring project which links young people up with volunteers in the community and an advocacy project to help them resolve any problems they might run into.”
To donate to the fundraiser press here.