London boroughs are making a huge contribution in taking care of unaccompanied asylum seeking children. At 31 March 2016 London boroughs were looking after a third of children seeking asylum alone in England, and played a crucial role in resettling over 100 unaccompanied children from Calais ‘jungle’. Boroughs make a huge contribution and will strive to continue to do so. London boroughs are now seeking meaningful and sustained outcomes for the children in their area and support the National Transfer Scheme as a mechanism for sustainable resettlement.
Since 10 October 2016 the Government has overseen the transfer of over 750 unaccompanied minors to the UK from France as the Calais ‘Jungle’ was dismantled. Many have been reunited with family members already in the UK, while others are being cared for by local authorities across the UK. London boroughs have played an instrumental role in this effort and have welcomed over 200 children into the capital in addition to supporting high numbers of unaccompanied children arriving in the UK by their own means. London boroughs are now seeking meaningful and sustained outcomes for the children in their area and support the National Transfer Scheme as a mechanism for the sustainable resettlement of children across the UK as the refugee crisis continues.
Arrival in the UK
Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children are arriving in the UK by different means:
- Dublin III Regulation – children/close family/dependents reuniting to have their asylum claim dealt with together. While the local authority is responsible for undertaking family assessments to ensure the placement is suitable, the local authority has no further duty of care – unless the family relationship breaks down before the child turns 18.
- Dubs amendment – resettlement of unaccompanied asylum seeking children already in European refugee camps in France, Greece or Italy. The scheme prioritises children aged 12 and under, at high risk of sexual exploitation and children of Sudanese or Syrian nationality. Transfer to the UK must be determined to be in the best interest of the child. Government have now closed this scheme arguing that it risks creating a pull factor that encourages human trafficking. The Chair of London Councils said it was deeply disappointing that the Government have chosen to end its commitment to the Dubs Amendment.
- Spontaneous Arrivals – most UASC arrive in the UK by their own means and are encountered at their port of entry, at the Asylum Intake Unit in Croydon, or are otherwise encountered by police/social services. The local authority in which the child first presents is normally responsible for their care. This has put disproportionate pressure on some local authorities such as Kent and Hillingdon who have significant ports of entry, and Croydon where the Asylum Intake Unit is based. This group includes children who arrived on the back of lorries from Calais.
Refugee and asylum-seeking children are also arriving with their families into the UK from outside of the European Union including the Middle East and North Africa Region under the Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme, and Syria under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.
Accommodating UASC in the UK
The National Transfer Scheme (NTS) was introduced on 1st July 2016. The scheme is designed to ensure that no local authority is required to care for more UASC than it can cope with. The Government are encouraging a regional approach, and have offered Strategic Migration Partnerships £60,000 to bolster their regional structures to support the NTS. In London, this coordination activity has been led by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services via colleagues at the London Borough of Croydon and the London Asylum Seekers Consortium.
Under this scheme, where an unaccompanied child first presents in a local authority which already has over 0.07% UASC to child population, the local authority is expected to arrange for the transfer of the child. If any local authority within the region is under the 0.07% threshold, then the child would be expected to be transferred within that region. If all local authorities within the region are above the 0.07% threshold then the child will be transferred to another region through the NTS. This applies unless there are clear reasons why it would not be appropriate to transfer the child.
From 1 July 2016 the Home Office introduced an enhanced daily rate for UASC. Each UASC arriving (by any means) after 1 July 2016 will thus attract £41,610 per annum and each UASC aged 16 to 18 will attract £33,215 per annum. This represents an increase in the funding available of 20% for under-16s and 28% for 16 and 17 year olds. Government have agreed to keep this funding under review. Additional financial support for UASC was also announced through the Controlling Migration Fund in November 2016.
London made a significant commitment of support to the national effort to relocate unaccompanied minors from France to the UK and London’s leadership on UASC has been recognised positively by the Minister for Immigration. Children’s services departments across the capital all played a part in managing the flow of children into London, which included the continued spontaneous presentation of children. London’s history and experience of responding to the needs of UASC proved invaluable to the successful regional contribution during a period of intense pressure on the system. During the period between mid-October and early December, London welcomed and accommodated more than 200 children.
The significant increase in UASC arrivals during this period resurfaced a number of key issues facing the London system which become increasingly important as London boroughs seek meaningful and sustained outcomes for the children in their area:
- London accommodates a large and disproportionate share of the national UASC population. This is placing significant pressures on the London capacity to continue to receive and support UASC.
- A number of boroughs are already significantly over their NTS threshold of 0.07%; this adds an additional financial burden where emergency care placements have to be sought.
- A number of UASC will fail in their asylum claim, increasing the risk of children absconding from local authority care, putting themselves at great risk creating additional NRPF burden.
- Dublin family reunifications do not attract any funding for support, which increases the likelihood that the placements will breakdown and young people will end up unnecessarily in the care system.
Without these funding assurances not only are outcomes for these children going to be worse but the burdens on local government and the wider public sector will simply fall elsewhere, through an increased No-Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) burden for care-leavers who are not eligible for support; through the additional care places needed to deal with failed reunifications; and through the risks arising as a result of young people absconding from care.
While these issues remain critical to London’s ongoing responsibility for UASC, London can be proud of the contribution it has made in responding to the unprecedented events resulting from the closure of the refugee camp in Calais. London now looks to creating meaningful and sustained outcomes for the children in their area, and supporting the National Transfer Scheme as a mechanism for the sustainable resettlement of children across the UK as the refugee crisis continues.