Local authorities must take in fair share of child refugees

Benali Hamdache writes to councils to remind them of the ‘woeful’ provisions currently provided to refugees, and to join the call for more funding to support refugee children.

Signs saying 'Refugees welcome' at a protest.
Signs saying 'Refugees welcome' at a protest.

Image: Ilias Bartolini (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Green World

The Green Party has written to every local authority in England today, calling on councils to work together in housing as many child refugees as possible, in response to the crisis in Afghanistan.

Benali Hamdache, Green Party migration and refugee support spokesperson, has sent letters to the leaders of local councils to alert them of the ‘woeful’ provisions currently provided to refugees, particularly Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASCs).

The letter demands that councils ‘take their fair share’ of children as around 2.5 million people flee the Taliban military offensive in Afghanistan globally, as well as those seeking refuge from other parts of the world.

The UK Government has declined to give an estimate of how many refugees they will take, instead promising a ‘bespoke refugee scheme’ to be later clarified.

Hamdache said: “We have all looked on in horror as the Taliban advanced across Afghanistan, leaving millions of people trying to flee violence and persecution.

“Councils in England can make a huge difference to the lives of some of these people. Unfortunately, the provision for child refugees in this country is already woefully inadequate, with young people being left in unsuitable locations, often without the support they need.

“If we want to be able to help those in Afghanistan who deserve a better future, then we need to sort out the crisis already in this country and get local authorities to take their fair share of child refugees.”

Addressing the already poor refugee provisions required of local councils, Hamdache asks authorities to confirm if they are currently supporting the required 0.07 per cent of UASC children as a portion of their child population.

He also asks authorities whether they plan to participate in the National Transfer Scheme rota, urging them to set out a timeline for such plans, as well as calling for a commitment to supporting the large number of UASCs currently in hotel accommodation, awaiting placement.

In addition to addressing existing refugee policy, Hamdache requests councils to join the Green Party in calling on Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, to provide more funding to local authorities to support refugee children.

Hamdache said: "It's also time for the government to step up and deliver on the obligations it has to help those around the world who need it. It needs to create specific funding to support councils and help those in need."

As well as accepting refugees as a humanitarian issue, councils are asked to share the workload of those in the South East, currently holding hotels full of unhoused UASCs.

Councillor Hannah Clare, Brighton and Hove’s Lead Councillor for Childrens’ Services, said: “It is clear that the Government’s inability to act and introduce a mandatory rota for local authorities has failed. Many councils across England are simply looking the other way and the Government is allowing them to do so. As councils, we must do better.

“Right now in Brighton and Hove and in Kent there are young people being placed in a hotel by the Home Office waiting for councils to offer them a secure, permanent home. And the refugee crisis we face will only get worse. Councils must act now to provide a place for these vulnerable children.”

Hamdache concludes his letter to local authorities with an appeal to councillors’ empathy, referring to ‘international obligations to support those in need’.