Chaos around refugee children arriving in the UK – lessons must be learnt.

Author: TACT

TACT (The Adolescent and Children’s Trust) is greatly concerned about the lack of planning around unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) arriving in the UK from the unofficial migrant camp in Calais.

Andy Elvin TACT CEO: “The camp has been growing for over a year, it is the latest in a series of such camps and it will not be the last. The Home Office appointed senior officers to plan for this and they liaised with local authorities and charities. However, it would seem they were hamstrung by a lack of leadership and political will at Ministerial level within the Home Office.”

 TACT, amongst other charities, has been talking to the LGA and the Home Office for over a year about arrangements for receiving refugee children to the UK. There are sufficient foster placements within the system to accommodate all of the children envisaged coming under the Dubs amendment.

 It would have been very straightforward to second local authority or charity social workers to the camp in Calais to register and assess children there who either had family in the UK or wished to seek refuge or asylum here. This could have begun in June 2016 if not earlier.

The dispersal system envisaged under the national transfer scheme is now functioning and could have been used to ensure those children needing care were shared between local authorities. In fact, earlier than this, TACT offered the Home Office a way to disperse children across the UK through contracting directly with fostering agencies. This was refused as the Home Office viewed placing children as a local authority matter.

However, due to the lack of political will from the Home Office and a failure to work effectively with the French Interior Ministry, children were left in unacceptable conditions in the Calais camp for months on end & some did suffer significant harm. They were then transferred in a shambolic and chaotic manner across France and to the UK.

Those coming to the UK were unassessed, as were any family members they were joining, so children could not be placed immediately with said family. Those who have come into foster care come with no information or assessment making placement decisions harder.

 Andy Elvin said: “We have seen cases where children have sat all day in Home Office buildings around England without being fed and then placed with foster families late afternoon with only their name and age provided. It should be a source of shame and embarrassment to the British and French governments that events have unfolded in this manner.”

 TACT is concerned that history will repeat itself again in a year. Instability in Africa and the Middle East means that migrants will still travel and many will head for Calais or another channel port. TACT would like assurance that the UK and French governments are prepared to learn lessons from the wholly unprofessional and chaotic events of the past few weeks.